In powerful and emotional two hour testimony, Annabella Sciorra said Harvey Weinstein raped her in her apartment in 1993 or 1994.
Annabella is the first woman of six expected to testify before the court.
Annabella’s allegation dates back too far to be prosecuted and is being heard as part of New York’s Molineux Rule. Prior bad act witnesses – charged or uncharged – can be heard, if the Judge agrees, to show a pattern of predatory behaviour. Annabella is one of four additional women who are expected to testify showing that the former Hollywood producer habitually targeted women in this way.
Annabella Sciorra said Harvey Weinstein raped her after they had dinner together. He dropped her off at her apartment, and as she was getting ready for bed, changing into a nightdress, when she heard a knock at the door. She answered and Weinstein forced his way in and started to unbutton his shirt.
She said she was not interested and tried to fight him off. He forced her hands over her head, pushed her on the bed and forcibly raped her. He ejaculated on her leg. He then performed oral sex on her saying “This is for you.”
Annabella said that she was very confused after it happened and didn’t call the doorman or the police. She said that she did not articulate the event to herself initially as rape, nor go to the police, “because he was someone I knew. I felt at the time that rape was something that happens in a back alleyway in a dark place by someone you didn’t know.”
This was, and still is, a common misconception.
Donna Rotunno cross examined Annabella pressing her on why she didn’t remember the exact date, and harked back to this repeatedly. Rotunno questioned her about how hard she fought back, why she had changed into her nightdress, if she had answered the door in her nightdress before, why she didn’t use the peep hole in the door, how long the attack lasted as well as her decision not to inform the condo board call the police or. So much focus on what she did or didn’t do, as if any of these things negate the fact that she was raped.
Predictably, Rotunno, played into all the rape myths and misconceptions in an attempt to discredit Annabella.
How “hard” can one fight back when Annabella was 110-115 llbs to Weinstein’s 300 llbs? Let’s think about that. Most rapes there is no physical force. In domestic violence rapes, sexual coercion is commonplace and goes hand in hand with coercive control. The abuser often reinforces it by saying “it’s not possible to rape you, you are my wife.” He sees it as his “right” and his “entitlement.”
Additionally, many victims freeze – they disassociate – they will it to be over as quickly as possible. It is a misconception that most victims fight. The physiology stacks the odds against a female victim right from the get go.
Time stands still during a traumatic event. Seconds seem like minutes, therefore time is distorted and memory becomes less reliable over time. That is a fact, whether it is a significant event or not and unless it is tied to a noteworthy date and written down somewhere, it’s unlikely the date and every detail will be recalled or recalled accurately.
Most victims know their rapist, yet the myth about strangers in bushes is pervasive. Many are confused afterwards, especially if the rape is normalised and by someone known. Very few call the police, and if they do, it is some time after. In fact, only between 2-15% of rapes are reported.
Most victims never report. This can be for many reasons – mainly victims fear that they will not be believed, that they will be judged, shamed and/or blamed. Some don’t want to be seen as a ‘victim’. Others know that it is their word against the rapists and that he will ruin her life. The power imbalance and structural inequalities keep them silent.
More believe that they are to blame in some way and rape culture perpetuates that myth. Did you answer the door? You didn’t look through the peep hole first? And you opened the door in your nightdress? These very questions insinuate this is an open invitation and you are somehow to blame – and these are questions that have gone through the victim’s head, time and time again in the aftermath, the very questions that are barriers to reporting.
Fear and confusion also play a big part, particularly if the person is known and there is a power imbalance. This is not unusual and yet Donna Rotunno would try to mislead to court and have them believe that Annabella’s experience is the anomaly?
If that’s not enough, Rotunno played on the fact that Annabella is an actress, implying that she is used to “playing a part.” She even dug up archive showing a younger Annabella joking on The David Letterman show that she made some things up about her life, just for fun, things like her father raised iguanas for the circus, attempting to sow the seed that the rape was one of those things she made up. Hardly likely.
The traumatic, vivid and detailed account, along with the lasting self-destructive behaviour due to the impact of the rape appeared very real. Given the time and distance of the rape, it is the messiness and imperfections of Annabella’s account and narrative, that make it all the more credible and authentic, in my opinion. Yet more shameful and desperate play, by defence.
The case continues.