"Did you try to scratch it? Did you scream When you woke up, did you go to the police? Have you been to the hospital? Did you call the emergency room? A purple dress close to the body, chestnut curls cascading over her shoulders, Donna Rotunno also brought out her most severe gaze, topped by glasses with large frames.
Harvey Weinstein's lawyer is on a mission: to discredit Annabella Sciorra, the first of six women to testify against the 67-year-old former producer, whose trial for rape and sexual assault on two of them has entered the thick of the subject this week. Thursday, the actress of "Soprano", who had just delivered the appalling account of a winter night, at the end of 1993 at the beginning of 1994, was pounded by questions by the defense. Objective: highlight apparent inconsistencies in her behavior and, ultimately, demonstrate that she is lying.
A tactic that the prosecution wanted to quickly counter by calling the bar this Friday morning, a psychiatrist specializing in sexual violence, Barbara Ziv. Court expert and teacher, she gained sudden notoriety in 2018 after her decisive intervention in the trial of Bill Cosby, another fallen glory swept away by the #MeToo wave and who now sleeps in prison.
Rape, "the least reported crime"
Joan Illuzzi-Oborn, prosecutor, is counting on the expert to speak to jurors of "rape myths", these prejudices linked to sexual violence. Because if Annabella Sciorra was hardly let down, that she physically opposed her attacker and avoided him at best thereafter, things are much less simple for Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann, the two accusers main points of the trial…
"Rape is committed by strangers": the sentence appears in capital letters on a large screen installed between the jurors and Barbara Ziv. "It is the most commonplace in the matter," says the expert, recalling this figure: 75% of victims know their attacker. "The victims resist," continues the screen: "Between only 20 and 40% will shout, howl. Very few will run, fight. It is even rarer to run away, ”adds the expert, forming a perfect duo with the prosecutor.
"Stay in touch with the aggressor?" It is very common, especially if it is around you. ” We come to the filing of complaints: “Of all, this is the least denounced crime. It can take months, years, or never happen, ”explains Barbara Ziv, referring to shame, guilt, the difficulty of verbalizing such trauma, including with friends. “As devastating as rape can be, the victims say to themselves: I'm going to forget that, I can take it. I do not want this person to destroy my reputation and risk losing my job ... Because, continues the psychiatrist, beyond physical force, they also often use threat, telling them that they will make their lives a hell and no one will believe them. "
"I feared that he would break my contract"
A pattern that Harvey Weinstein, to believe the dozens of women who accused him, and in particular Annabella Sciorra, used to perfection. Thursday, she had told how, already before the alleged rape, she had found it "disgusting and inappropriate" that the producer sent her a box of chocolates ... shaped like a penis. "And you didn't ask him why he was sending this to you?" Was surprised Donna Rotunno.
" No. I was afraid he would break my contract, ”said the actress. Urged after the fact to be silent - "I thought he was going to hit me, he was threatening", she says, one day when she wanted to explain with the producer - she will not break the silence than in 2017 by testifying in the press. She says, so far, being “afraid for [her] life”.
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The giant screen now shows a sectioned brain. Barbara Ziv stands up, explains that the brain records the traumas in a raw way, without details. “If you are assaulted in this room, your entire attention will be absorbed by knowing how to get out of it. It's a survival reflex. Victims of rape are able to describe the ceiling, the sheets or even the nose hair of their attacker, while not remembering how he was dressed… ”, she develops, captivating.
If only one of the jurors doubts… Harvey Weinstein will be acquitted
In the front row of the jurors, three men who are well over sixty listen attentively. It is especially for them, these men disorientated by the MeToo movement, that the prosecution summoned Barbara Ziv. Indeed, only one of the jurors doubts the guilt of Harvey Weinstein and he will be acquitted, unanimity being required to obtain a conviction on each of the five counts. That is to say if the testimonies of Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann are expected, probably next week.
Both had kept in touch with Harvey Weinstein, despite the attacks they denounced, sending him affectionate messages. Jessica Mann, whose cross-examination by the defense is likely to be terrible, had even developed a form of sentimental relationship with the accused, speaking of him as a "plan cul". Prosecutor Meghan Hast, in her argument, insisted before the jury on Wednesday: "Remember that the question you are asked is not whether the victim had the right reaction but whether the accused attacked each the victims. A warning which may be, by then, already forgotten.