After much anticipation and more than a few road bumps, Harvey Weinstein’s trial has begun in New York. Unfortunately, his legal team is taking a very questionable track in trying to somehow prove their client’s innocence.
Weinstein’s lawyers cross-examined actor Annabella Sciorra today. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle actor has accused Weinstein of raping her 25 years ago. The lawyers’ defense tactic apparently relies mainly on trying to prove Sciorra did not try hard enough to fight off her attacker.
While testifying today, Sciorra was asked a number of questions that can only be described as victim-blaming. Donna Rotunno asked The Kitchen actor if she had tried to leave the room when Weinstein pushed his way into it. Sciorra was also asked if she tried to fight back when he grabbed her robe or if she tried to poke him in the eyes. Her answer was no to all questions.
However, Sciorra has previously testified that she did try to kick Weinstein when he tried to force her onto the bed.
Unfortunately, this is a frequent tactic for defense lawyers in assault cases of this nature. Women are often asked what they were wearing, how much they drank, and if they had ever had a relationship with their attacker in the past. The point is to deflect blame, and this tactic is used by everyone from police officers to lawyers and friends.
Some are willing to take this method beyond the bounds of logic. Late last year, a rape case was thrown out in Barcelona. Five men were acquitted of rape because an unconcious teenage girl was unable to defend herself.
Weinstein’s lawyers also did their best to try to make Sciorra look like an unreliable witness. They questioned her credibility by planting the idea she could be pretending to be a victim, relying on her acting background.
This has happened before. Other victims’ actions have been carefully analyzed by those watching the case. Smiling in a photo with Weinstein is said to be proof they were friends. Text messages professing love for the producer are said to discredit any other accusations.
Aside from being an obvious ploy to make victims look like liars and deflect blame away from the abuser, there is a common misconception that could be causing questions like this to be raised.
Many people believe the body automatically goes into a state of “fight or flight” when people are in danger. Run or defend. But this is not true. The body’s response to danger would be better described as “fight, flight, or freeze.” The name indicates the result, freezing up in the moment, not knowing how to react. This happens often in cases of sexual assault and is believed by some to be a defense mechanism. Women who fight back often receive worse — and sometimes fatal — injuries.