NEW YORK (Reuters) – A forensic psychiatrist took the stand 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.
Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at New York Criminal Court for his sexual assault trial in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting two women, Mimi Haleyi and Jessica Mann. Since 2017, more than 80 women, including many famous actresses, have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, fueling the #MeToo movement.
Weinstein has denied any nonconsensual sex.
The trial is widely seen as a watershed moment for the #MeToo movement, in which women have gone public with allegations against powerful men in business and politics.
Defense attorneys said on Wednesday during opening statements that emails from the accusers to Weinstein would show they maintained warm relations, which could undermine a case that appears to rely primarily on the testimony of the accusers.
Psychiatrist Barbara Ziv, who teaches at Temple University in Philadelphia, testified on Friday that popular views of sexual assault were often colored by “rape myths,” including the belief that rape usually occurs between strangers.
In fact, Ziv said, most rapes and assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and most victims do not fight back during the attack and maintain contact with their attackers. A victim in an intimate relationship with her attacker may not leave, and a victim who is not in a relationship may even begin one after an attack, Ziv said.
“They’re hoping that this was just an aberration,” she said.
Ziv said victims rarely report what happened to them promptly. They may feel ashamed and blame themselves or may fear their attacker.
“It is the most underreported crime,” she said.
On Thursday, actress Annabella Sciorra testified that Weinstein violently raped her in her home in the early 1990s and went on to harass her for years.
Sciorra’s allegation is too old to be charged as a separate crime, but prosecutors hope it will show that Weinstein was a repeat sexual predator, a charge that could put him in prison for life.
One of Weinstein’s lawyers, Donna Rotunno, grilled Sciorra on Wednesday about whether she had reported the alleged rape to authorities or sought medical help.
Sciorra acknowledged that she had not.
“At the time, I didn’t understand that it was rape,” she said.
Sciorra told jurors that she became depressed after the encounter, drinking heavily and even cutting herself. She cried on the stand as she told of how she was unable to tell her family what had happened.
Ziv will testify about rape trauma generally and will not offer any opinions directly related to Weinstein or his accusers, prosecutors said.
Ziv testified as an expert for prosecutors in the sexual assault trial of comedian Bill Cosby, who was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison in 2018.
(This story corrects last paragraph to refer to Bill Cosby’s trial as a sexual assault trial, not a rape trial)
Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis