Weinstein trial is a milestone for #MeToo and a moment of wrenching truth for survivors

Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- For the past two years, Louise Godbold has been living in a state of heightened tension.

In interview after interview, the former commercial producer has shared what she said happened to her 29 years ago in an empty New York meeting room with Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and then again at the Beverley Hills Hotel. Each retelling surfaced feelings of anxiety and numbness, and at times she questioned whether sharing her story was worth it. Even a friend accused her of making Weinstein a scapegoat for a movement, #MeToo, that they believed had gone too far.

This month Godbold plans to watch as Weinstein is tried in Manhattan on five sex crime charges from two separate incidents in 2006 and 2013. She is one of more than 80 other women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Last week, Los Angeles County prosecutors filed four additional sexual assault charges against Weinstein, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

"He has to be convicted," said Godbold, a Los Angeles resident who has spent the last 20 years helping trauma survivors through various social programs. "If not, there's no morals, there's no justice."

The Weinstein revelations were the catalyst for #MeToo, a movement that gave an unprecedented voice to survivors of sexual assault and harassment and provoked a cultural reckoning that had bubbled beneath the surface for decades. The allegations are now set to culminate in a trial that is undoubtedly a landmark case for women's rights. But despite the potential for a life sentence, advocates contend that the trial is just one milestone in a long crusade for systemic, lasting change.

For survivors such as Godbold, a conviction could mark a turning point and help heal their trauma. An acquittal could confirm their worst fears: That society at large is still not ready to listen.


"It would be devastating if he were to get off," Godbold said. "It would be a complete affront to every woman and every sexual assault survivor."

If Weinstein is convicted on the rape and sexual assault charges, the verdict could give fuel to the #MeToo movement, advocates say. Survivors who once felt it too risky to put themselves through a grueling and potentially humiliating process might be emboldened to pursue justice.

The movement fomented a shift in the debate over sexual misconduct that has become much bigger than the mogul himself and the individual stories of those he is accused of harming. Despite this platform, very few survivors see justice served. Out of every 1,000 instances of rape, 13 cases will get referred to a prosecutor and seven will lead to a felony conviction, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

"This trial is critical to show that predators everywhere will be held accountable and that speaking up can bring about real change," said the Silence Breakers, a group comprised of Weinstein's accusers, in a statement Friday. "We refuse to be silenced and will continue to speak out until this unrepentant abuser is brought to justice."


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