Psychiatrist testifies about ‘rape myths’ at Harvey Weinstein trial
A forensic psychiatrist with expertise in rape trauma took the stand as a prosecution witness at former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s Manhattan rape trial on Friday, explaining why some sexual assault victims do not report attacks or avoid their abusers.
Barbara Ziv, who also testified for prosecutors at entertainer Bill Cosby’s 2018 sexual assault retrial, said popular views of sexual assault were often coloured by “rape myths,” including that rape usually occurs between strangers.
Ziv said most victims of rapes and sexual assaults know their attackers, do not fight back during the attacks, and maintain contact with their attackers. She also said some resist coming forward promptly because they feel ashamed or fear retribution.
“They’re hoping that this was just an aberration,” said Ziv, who teaches at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Ziv’s testimony could help prosecutors show jurors why some women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct might have stayed in contact with him after it occurred.
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting two women, Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann, and other charges that could put him in prison for life if he were convicted. The trial is expected to last into March.
Since 2017, more than 80 women, including many famous actresses, have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, fuelling the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein has denied any nonconsensual sex, and his lawyers said in opening statements on Wednesday that emails from his accusers would show they maintained warm relations.
The trial is widely seen as a watershed moment for #MeToo, in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.
On cross-examination, Weinstein lawyer Damon Cheronis confronted Ziv with her testimony in a separate case where a student sued her school over an alleged sexual assault.
According to Cheronis, Ziv testified for the defence that had the student been conscious she could have spoken up against her attacker. But Ziv said the comment was taken out of context.
Witnessed asked about regret years later
Cheronis also asked Ziv if a woman could view a consensual encounter years later as nonconsensual because she had come to regret it.
“Anything is possible,” Ziv answered. “It’s not usual.”
On Thursday, actress Annabella Sciorra from The Sopranos testified that Weinstein had violently raped her in her home in the early 1990s, and then harassed her for years.
While that alleged conduct occurred too long ago to support a separate rape charge against Weinstein, prosecutors hope it will show that Weinstein is a repeat sexual predator, the charge that could put him in prison for life.
Sciorra testified that her encounter with Weinstein left her depressed, causing her to drink heavily and cut herself, and unable to tell her family what had happened.
Under questioning from another of Weinstein’s lawyers, Donna Rotunno, Sciorra acknowledged that she had not reported the alleged rape to authorities or sought medical help.
“At the time, I didn’t understand that it was rape,” she said.
Cosby has been appealing his conviction and three- to 10-year prison sentence from his 2018 retrial.