We thought justice was impossible. We were wrong.
23 years. Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison.
It doesn’t sound all that much at first. Not when you put it like that. Not when you consider the sheer number of women who have accused the Hollywood producer of sexual assault, harassment and rape. But then you sit there, and you do the maths, and you realise that Weinstein is going to spend 8,395 days behind bars.
That’s 201,480 hours. That’s 12,088,800 minutes. That’s 725,328,000 seconds. And I’ve no doubt whatsoever that each tick of that clock will stretch into infinity as Weinstein sits in a cell with only his crimes for company.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this sentencing – much like the initial guilty verdict – caught me entirely by surprise. Not because I doubted the claims made against him: as well as the six women who gave testimony at his trial, over 90 others have come forward to share their own #MeToo encounters with Weinstein – encounters that range from uncomfortable, inappropriate situations to allegations of rape. I believe every single one of them, from the bottom of my heart.
No, it’s because I had begun to believe that such an outcome was impossible. That justice was impossible. And why? Because we have relentlessly been fed this narrative which tells us powerful men are somehow untouchable.
You will no doubt remember that 22 allegations against Donald Trump weren’t enough to stop him becoming president of the United States. Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony of assault – every bit as harrowing as it was credible – was not enough to stop Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to supreme court justice.
And Brock Turner, who saw his swimming medals and accolades listed by the same media outlets who described his victim, Chanel Miller, as an “unconscious intoxicated woman”, was given a prison sentence of just six months with probation after sexually assaulting said “unconscious intoxicated woman” behind a dumpster.
Is it any wonder, then, that so many supporters of the #MeToo movement (me included) were completely blindsided by the news of Weinstein’s prison sentence?
Of all the “untouchable” men, the Hollywood producer seemed the most unlikely to be toppled from grace. This was, after all, a man who, according to The New York Times, paid off eight women, including actors, models and staff members in his own company. Whose predatory behaviour wasn’t just an open secret, but also the source of many high-profile jokes (see this compilation of clips – all of which were originally released sometime in the past two decades – if you don’t believe me).
This is the man who issued a lacklustre statement of regret as he checked himself into rehab, yet still vehemently denied all the claims against him. Who genuinely believed it was appropriate to, in a recent interview with the New York Post, point out that he has overseen “more movies directed by women and about women than any film-maker”.
“I pioneered it!” he said. “It all got eviscerated because of what happened. My work has been forgotten.”
This is the man whose lead attorney, Donna Rotunno, urged the 12 jurors at Weinstein’s trial to make themselves “unpopular” by acquitting him, insisting he had been innocent from the start.
Of course, Weinstein faced just five of the many, many accusations made against him at his trial. He was found guilty of two. But those two accusations represented so many more. He represented so much more. Because, when Weinstein came before judge and jury, he was no longer Hollywood’s famous predator: he was every powerful man who has misused a position of power to abuse and silence women.
And, while no amount of jail time will repair the lives of those women he ruined, this is a huge victory for all of us.
To echo the words of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, I’d like to thank the courts “for imposing a sentence that puts sexual predators and abusive partners in all segments of society on notice.”
More than this, though, I’d like to thank Weinstein’s victims for speaking out. Because “Harvey Weinstein deployed nothing less than an army of spies to keep them silent. But they refused to be silent, and they were heard.”
In doing so, they have shifted the world that much more towards justice. And hopefully, the next time a powerful abuser is found guilty and sentenced accordingly, our reaction will not be one of surprise.