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Monday, April 15, 2024

‘Myth-busting’ at Weinstein’s rape trial, defense struggles with arguements

Barbara Ziv, a forensic psychiatrist, told Weinstein's rape trial on Friday that victims of sexual assault commonly remain in contact with their attacker for years after the incident; busting the defense's case and many common held misconceptions on rape cases.

A forensic psychiatrist told Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial Friday that victims of sexual assault commonly remain in contact with their attacker for years after the incident.

The prosecution called Barbara Ziv, who testified when American comedian Bill Cosby was convicted of sexual assault, to dispel several “myths” surrounding rape.

Ex-Hollywood titan Weinstein, 67, whose trial began hearing testimony this week, faces life imprisonment if convicted of predatory sexual assault charges related to two women: actress Jessica Mann and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi.

Two months before the #MeToo movement ignited in late 2017, the then Hollywood titan emailed a “red flag list” of people he wanted investigated, prosecutors and a witness said at the trial which began hearing testimony this week.

He is alleged to have forcibly performed oral six on former production assistant Mimi Haleyi and to have raped actress Jessica Mann.

Weinstein denies all allegations of non-consensual sex.


As testimony in the former Miramax chief’s trial enters its second week Monday, it’s the critical but less compelling details of victim behavior and myths surrounding sexual assault that have taken center stage.

Even though Judge James Burke insisted at the start that this case would “not be a referendum on #MeToo,” the issues that came to the fore as a result of that movement—consent and victim-shaming among them—have dominated much of the testimony.

“The idea that women respond to sexual assault by screaming, yelling, punching, biting—although that happens, it’s rare,” forensic psychologist Barbara Ziv explained from the witness stand on Friday.

Pennsylvania-based Ziv said most sexual assaults are committed by someone who is known to the victim, and not by a stranger, as is often believed.

She told the proceedings, symbolic to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, that it is wrong to say that victims always resist their assailants.

Another misconception, said Ziv, who has given evidence at more than 200 sexual assault trials, is that victims usually report the attack to friends and the police afterwards.

Read more: Seven men, five women to serve on Weinstein rape trial jury

Weinstein’s defense case

Weinstein’s defense team has seized on the fact that some of the dozens of women who have accused him of sexual assault since the 1990s maintained outwardly friendly relations with him.

In her cross-examination of the prosecution’s second witness, actor Annabella Sciorra, defense attorney Donna Rotunno on Thursday quizzed Sciorra about her behavior on the night more than 25 years ago.

Sciorra said Weinstein pushed his way into her Manhattan apartment that night and violently raped her after they’d had dinner with other people at a restaurant.

“You say he pushes his way in, right?” Rotunno said. “Did you walk out?”

“There’s no way to get by him,” Sciorra replied.

Defense attorneys have presented correspondence between Mann and Weinstein which they say show the pair were “in a loving relationship.”

“It is the norm to continue to have contact,” said Ziv, the prosecution’s third witness.

“That contact can range from text messages to emails to continuing a relationship with them,” she added.

Weinstein, wearing a dark suit, switched between scribbling notes on a yellow legal pad and tapping his fingers anxiously on the desk during Ziv’s testimony.

The psychiatrist said victims often keep quiet about an attack because they possess some sort of affection for the abuser.

The perpetrator may also have the power to wreck their job and other relationships, she added.

“I can handle this trauma but God forbid they could ruin the rest of my life and make it impossible for me to go on,” victims sometimes think, Ziv said.

Defense attorney Damon Cheronis challenged Ziv on whether women ever report a consensual sexual encounter as a rape years later “out of shame.”

“Anything is possible, (but) it’s not usual,” she replied.

Weinstein has been accused of sexual assault by more than 80 women, including Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek, since allegations against him ignited the #MeToo movement in October 2017.

Read more: MSNBC’s Chris Hayes praises Ronan Farrow’s reporting, provides subtle dig at NBC News for killing Weinstein s……

Cosby was in September 2018 sentenced to a minimum of three years in jail for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman 15 years ago.

AFP with additional input from GVS News Desk