Weinstein's accusers say their lives have irreversibly changed since they went public with their allegations — and not always for the better
Harvey Weinstein's New York City trial is drawing to a close, and the jury will soon decide whether to convict him on charges of rape and sexual assault. Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women — yet only two women's allegations have been tried in court so far. Two of Weinstein's accusers who were not involved in the criminal case — Rowena Chiu and Lauren Sivan — told Insider they've been watching the trial from afar, and are hoping he gets convicted and sentenced to prison time. But they added that they've struggled to handle the backlash in their own lives from coming forward publicly, upset at the way their narratives have spiraled beyond their control. Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
When Rowena Chiu finally went public with her sexual misconduct allegation against Harvey Weinstein, she said telling her story reminded her of caring for a newborn baby: Its existence was completely dependent on her. "It can't roll over, it can't crawl away, it relies on you for every single feed," Chiu told Insider. "But then very quickly it becomes a toddler and it grows sturdy little legs and it runs away from you," she added. In the fall of 2019, with Weinstein's trial looming and interest from national media high, Chiu was bombarded with requests to discuss what happened to her in 1998 when she worked as Weinstein's assistant. It was a secret she hadn't shared with anyone in 20 years, not even her husband, until she decided to break her nondisclosure agreement.
Chiu said in recent months she's had to repeatedly describe her allegations that Weinstein summoned her to a hotel room in 1998 and tried to rape her. She said reporters constantly ask her about parts of her allegations she'd rather not remember, like how she wore two layers of tights to protect herself and how Weinstein peeled off both of them. She also said the media's focus has often zoomed straight to the most salacious parts of her story, and she wishes they would focus more on the racial aspect of her allegations, such as how Weinstein used pervasive stereotypes about Chinese people to victimize her.
Weinstein, she alleged, told her he'd "never had a Chinese girl" before. She said he seemed to buy into racist tropes about Asian women's deference, telling her they were discreet and knew how to keep secrets. "How race plays into sexual assault is quite dark and difficult, but it is hard to make that story stick in mainstream media," Chiu said. "I was a Chinese person, and I was expected to be compliant, and I was expected not to complain." Since sharing her story, Chiu has kept an eye on the case and watched with outrage as Weinstein's defense team has pushed their own narrative, casting doubt on his accusers and portraying them as opportunists rather than victims as the case came to a close on Friday. One Weinstein accuser said she's struggled to find work after going public The jury, composed of seven men and five women, will begin deliberations on Tuesday. Chiu and Weinstein's other accusers are desperately hoping the trial will result in a criminal conviction and a prison sentence. Weinstein has not been charged with the vast majority of the public allegations against him for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the women's allegations were past the statute of limitations. In others, the women simply didn't want to take their claims to court. Ultimately, Weinstein was charged in New York with sexually assaulting Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping Jessica Mann in 2013.
But for the dozens of other women whose allegations have not resulted in criminal charges, they say their lives have changed in a number of ways since they came forward publicly — and not necessarily for the better. Two of them — Chiu and the journalist Lauren Sivan — told Insider they're proud to see the #MeToo movement gain increasing strength and momentum because of their efforts, and to see women's allegations taken seriously in the media. But they said they've also borne personal costs from coming forward. Sivan, who alleged two years ago that Weinstein once cornered her in a restaurant in 2007 and tried to kiss her, told Insider she has struggled to find work since she came forward.
Though Weinstein's reputation is in tatters and he'll likely remain disgraced even if he is found not guilty, Sivan said she and the other accusers are generally viewed as troublemakers to potential employers. "There's a label definitely on us," Sivan said. "When you Google any of us, this is what comes up. And so to a company, or for me, to a TV station, to place where we're all looking for work, a lot of people think twice now." That flies in the face of what Weinstein's lead defense attorney, Donna Rotunno, has said about the accusers. In an interview last month, she told Insider she didn't believe any of Weinstein's accusers had lost work because they came forward. She also said in her closing statements she believed the accuser Annabella Sciorra, who testified against Weinstein, even benefited from her involvement with the criminal case. "Once again, she's a star. She has new agents. Now she is the darling of the movement of the minute," Rotunno told the jury. Sivan said Rotunno's comments were inaccurate. "These women have been silenced. They've been manipulated, they've been hunted by, by intelligence operatives, for God's sake," she said, referring to the private investigators Weinstein hired to keep tabs on some of his accusers. "This idea that they just made this choice to put their career first is ridiculous."
Sivan's story has garnered particular interest in the last two years, given the bizarre details she shared. She alleged that when she rejected Weinstein's advances, he told her to "stand there and shut up," then masturbated in front of her and ejaculated into a potted plant. Sivan said she didn't regret sharing her story, and that she thinks it was worthwhile to help break down the stigma sexual assault survivors face. Beyond that, she said she was contacted by police in both New York City and Los Angeles for interviews. She said even though her allegations were past the statute of limitations, she was happy to help them however she could. But she said she also doesn't want to be forever linked to the Weinstein story. "I worked 20 years to build my career as a journalist. I did everything I possibly could … I got as much experience as I possibly could. And now I'm known with this one story," she said. "I don't think anyone wants to be known for someone ejaculating in front of them."
Read more: The 'ultimate feminist' defending Harvey Weinstein A Harvey Weinstein accuser testified that they were in a secret, abusive relationship and gave graphic testimony about his body 'His eyes were black': Actress Annabella Sciorra testified that Harvey Weinstein grew 'menacing' when she confronted him after he raped her Prosecutors say Harvey Weinstein put women through a series of 'tests' to see how easily they could be manipulated Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 9 items to avoid buying at Costco
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