Harvey Weinstein is a rapist. Not “alleged.” Not “accused of sexual misconduct.” Not “some women claim.” Weinstein walked into a Manhattan courthouse this week to hear his fate and walked out a convicted felon. If the justice system works the way it should, Weinstein will spend the rest of his life in a jail cell, finally facing consequences for his actions. It’s a fate that eluded him for so long — and which has eluded so many other predators like him. Not anymore, though: The reckoning isn’t just coming, it’s finally here. The #MeToo movement has entered its justice phase.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” These words were said by President Trump, and embodied by Weinstein and countless other despicable sexual predators— but they are no longer true. Women around the world declared that these crimes would no longer be allowed to stand. It didn’t matter whether a predator was a star, a boss, a mentor, a family member, or President of the United States — no matter what power you exercised to rape or assault or otherwise abuse women, your time would come. But even though the time for justice is here, it doesn’t mean the fight is over. Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape, yet CBS claimed he was “cleared of the most serious charges,” and the New York Times suggested that this was because jurors didn’t believe Annabella Sciorra’s testimony. These stories miss the point, and are, in my view, wildly misleading. Harvey Weinstein was not “cleared” of anything — an acquittal is not an exoneration — and unless the Times was in the jury room, they have no idea what jurors did or did not believe. And besides: I believe Annabella. Harvey Weinstein’s many survivors believe her. And so do millions of women around the world who heard the unmistakable ring of truth in her every word.
“Justice is coming, fellas. Even if you’re a star.”
– ALYSSA MILANO
The wheels of justice grind slowly. In many cases the legal system has been designed in ways that make it harder to report these crimes, let alone obtain convictions for them. Statutes of limitation prevent people like Christine Blasey Ford, Anabella Sciorra, and even me from receiving justice for assaults which happened in an era when there was no giant social uprising demanding prosecution. Too much time has passed, and our predators will get away with what they did to us from a criminal perspective — although we may still choose to name names, and get a different type of justice — the freedom that comes with speaking the truth.
But all of this is changing, and the potential to make abusers face what they’ve done is now greater than ever before. As of January 1, Illinois lifted its statute of limitations on sex crimes. Last year, New York state dramatically extended the statue of limitations for convictions on second and third degree rape charges. And while you might think these are blue-state actions, states like Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia each enacted similar legislation before Illinois and New York passed theirs. Soon, no matter where you live, when you commit a sexual crime, justice will never stop pursuing you. There will be no getting away any longer.
Lifting these statutes of limitations is a powerful tool for delivering justice to the future Harvey Weinsteins of the world, but it isn’t all that’s happening. Nearly every state has also recently enacted some degree of reform to reduce huge backlogs of untested rape kits. As hundreds of thousands of kits are tested and DNA is entered into criminal databases, rapists around the nation are going to be found. They’re going to be discovered. And they will go to jail.
DNA matters. I know it, and so does Donald Trump. I believe this is why he’s fighting so hard to resist giving a sample in a suit brought by former Elle editor E. Jean Carroll against him. He knows what he did. He knows the story the DNA will tell. He knows justice is coming, and he’s terrified.
Just as DNA is a critical component of criminal justice, NDAs have been a critical barrier to civil justice. Powerful men, in cowardly efforts to avoid being dragged through the public mud for their bad actions, have used and enforced these non-disclosure agreements to buy the silence of their victims. But that’s changing too — state after state is enacting legislation to limit or end the use of these privileged power plays in cases of sexual crimes or misconduct. In civil and criminal courts, justice is coming.
Bill Cosby is in jail. Harvey Weinstein is going to jail. R. Kelly is facing trial. Mario Batali is facing trial. Countless others, both high-profile and unknown, are facing investigations and charges for their heinous crimes. Eventually, Donald Trump will face civil or criminal justice. And across the country, especially since #MeToo went viral, continuing the work my dear friend Tarana Burke and others have been doing for so long, reports of sex crimes to police are increasing.
My wish is and will always be that no woman — no person — ever has to endure sexual crimes committed against them. I hope we can get to a place where the inherent dignity of every person is equally recognized and legally defined. It’s part of why we need the Senate to approve the Equal Rights Amendment, which has now been ratified by all 38 states needed to adopt it. But we’re not there yet. Cowards — and I strongly believe every sexual predator is a coward — will continue to try and prey on women. They will continue to believe their power or status or wealth will continue to let them get away with it.
If you want to tell Weinstein this, you’ll have to see what the visiting hours are wherever he ends up.
Justice is coming, fellas. Even if you’re a star.
Alyssa Milano is the host of the podcast Sorry Not Sorry.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).