Ex-Weinstein Assistant Opens Up About Alleged Attempted Rape, 20-Year Silence

Harvey Weinstein - State Supreme Court on June 5, 2018 - Getty-H 2018
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The disgraced former film mogul told Rowena Chiu, whose identity as one of his alleged victims was first revealed last month, that he'd "never had a Chinese girl" before he tried to force himself on her, she says.

Former Miramax assistant Rowena Chiu has opened up about why it took her almost two decades to speak out about Harvey Weinstein allegedly trying to rape her in an op-ed for The New York Times.

Chiu was first revealed last month as one of Weinstein's accusers and a source for New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, with her story included in their book She Said. Chiu says Weinstein tried to rape her at the Venice International Film Festival. in 1998 Unable to find support among senior executives as she and colleague Zelda Perkins reported Weinstein, but Chiu signed a restrictive nondisclosure agreement and struggled with depression and attempted suicide as she stayed silent, not even telling her husband about the experience.

In the op-ed, Chiu details how after recently graduating from Oxford in 1998, she got a job assisting Weinstein in London on his European premieres. She recalls how Perkins warned her that Weinstein had a reputation for inappropriate behavior and angry outbursts but to "handle him robustly" and she would be fine.

But at the Venice Film Festival, Chiu writes, Weinstein tried to rape her during a late-night meeting to discuss potential film productions and scripts.

"After hours of fending off his chitchat, flattery, requests for massages and a bath, ultimately I found myself pushed back against the bed," she says. "I’d worn two pairs of tights for protection, and tried to appease him by taking one of them off and letting him massage me, but it hadn’t worked. He’d taken off the other pair and I was terrified my underwear would be next. Harvey moved in: Please, he told me, just one thrust, and it will all be over."

After trying to get Weinstein to return his focus to the scripts and protesting that she had a boyfriend and Perkins would be worried, Chiu was ultimately able to "wriggle off the bed and leave," she says, believing Weinstein thought he'd be able to continue the "chase" on another night.

Chiu says Perkins immediately confronted Weinstein after she told her colleague what happened the next day. But when they returned to London, they kept encountering roadblocks when they tried to report Weinstein.

"When we began attempts to report Harvey to his superiors or the police, multiple senior individuals acted to shut us down," Chiu writes. "Some outright laughed in our faces. The message was always the same: Who would ever believe us over the most powerful man in Hollywood?"

After hiring lawyers, Chiu writes that she and Perkins were forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement, which "prevented us from speaking to family and friends, and made it extremely difficult to work with a therapist or a lawyer, or to aid a criminal investigation. Chillingly, it also required us to identify anyone we had already spoken to." She also accepted a settlement of more than $200,000.

"The negotiations were conducted under conditions of extreme duress: We were once kept at the office overnight, from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., escorted to the bathroom, provided with the barest minimum of food and drink and not permitted pen and paper to keep notes," Chiu explains of the NDA process. "We were not even allowed to keep a copy of this most egregious of agreements: We had signed our lives away in a complex 30-page document that we could not refer to."

Perkins broke her NDA in October 2017, shortly after numerous allegations against Weinstein surfaced.

Chiu was unable to find another job for six months and had to take a position at Miramax in Hong Kong, which she suspects Weinstein "created to keep me in his orbit."

Chiu says she attempted suicide twice before quitting Miramax.

"I lived in constant fear of Harvey’s abuse, control and power; that the story would come back to haunt me; that I would inadvertently slip up on my promise to never speak of this," she writes. "I suffered, completely isolated from those around me who could have provided the support I needed: a loved one, a trusted pastor, a respected therapist — even the man I would marry."

Chiu adds that she blamed herself, writing, "I spent decades grappling with guilt that I took the job, that I hadn’t left the room sooner, that it was somehow my fault, that I hadn’t handled Harvey 'robustly' enough, that I was not tough enough to work in the film industry."

Even when Kantor and Twohey revealed decades of sexual misconduct allegations against Weinstein in their landmark Times exposé in 2017, Chiu stayed silent as the #MeToo movement unfolded.

"My four children were young, and I was terrified that journalists would surround the house and that my children would be followed to school," she said. "I had been so completely silenced that although I was central to a story that had ignited a global movement, I did not participate. Remaining silent had become integral to my identity, both as a woman and a person of color."

What prompted Chiu to finally open up was another key moment in the #MeToo movement, when Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford delivered her heavily covered testimony against the then-Supreme Court nominee last year.

"Coincidentally, only a few minutes from my house she was living the very existence I’d feared — getting death threats and leaving her home to take refuge in hotel rooms," Chiu wrote of Blasey Ford.

Chiu met with Blasey Ford and other alleged sexual assault victims in January in a group interview conducted by Kantor and Twohey.

"I was still unresolved about going public. But meeting others who’d had similar experiences created a seismic shift within me," she writes.

In her op-ed, Chiu identified four "power dynamics" that caused her to fall "into Harvey's trap: gender, race, seniority and wealth.

On the race issue, she writes that Weinstein "assured Zelda that he wouldn’t harass me because he didn’t, as I remember it, “do Chinese or Jewish girls.” Then later, he turned around and defined me in terms of sexual exoticism, telling me, just before he tried to rape me, that he’d never had a Chinese girl."

Adds Chiu, "The idea of the Asian immigrant 'model minority' is a cliché, but at least in my British-Chinese family, we were afraid of standing out. I was taught not to talk back — to aunties and uncles, to my parents, to my teachers, to perfect strangers. I learned the social benefits of being deferential, polite and well behaved. As with many Asian women, this meant that I was visible as a sex object, invisible as a person. Harvey may not have created this imbalance, but he and many others have capitalized on it, knowingly or unknowingly, to abuse women of color."

She also responds to Weinstein denying her account, after she spoke about it on NBC's Today last month, and threatening to sue, claiming they had a consensual “six-month physical relationship.”

"It isn’t true," Chiu writes. "But muddying the waters is a common tactic of abusers."