Harvey Weinstein trial: Psychiatrist dispels misconceptions about sex assault victims after brutal cross-examination

A psychiatrist sought to dispel myths about survivors of sexual assault on Friday as Harvey Weinstein’s trial continued in New York City.

Prosecutors called to the stand a forensic psychiatrist who testified about the same topic at the Pennsylvania trial that led to Bill Cosby’s 2018 conviction on charges of sexually assaulting a woman.

One of the main lines of discussion was why some people remain in contact with their alleged accusers.

Dr Barbara Ziv told the jury of seven men and five women that most sex assault victims continue to have contact with their attackers, who often threaten retaliation if the victims tell anyone what happened.

Weinstein is accused of raping a woman in 2013 and performing a forcible sex act on another woman in 2006. He has pleaded not guilty and has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex. He has also denied retaliating against women.

Victims are “hoping that this is just an aberration,” Ziv said on Friday, and they tell themselves: “I can put it in a box and forget about it. I don’t want it to get worse. I can handle this physical trauma, but God forbid this ruins the rest of my life.”

Victims can end up blaming themselves “without knowing that their behaviour is entirely expected,” said Ziv, who has described herself as an expert on “sexual assault victim behaviour” who has evaluated more than 1,000 such people.

She did not, however, evaluate any of Weinstein’s accusers, a point his lawyers seized on.

Ziv’s testimony came the day after a strong cross-examination by the defence of Annabella Sciorra, an actor who alleges Weinstein raped her in the early Nineties.

Weinstein’s lawyers seized on her actions after the alleged assault. Defence attorney Donna Rotunno questioned why Sciorra made the 1997 Weinstein-produced film Cop Land if he had raped a few years earlier.

Sciorra, now 59, said she wasn’t aware of Weinstein’s involvement until she had agreed to appear in the film.

Rotunno also noted during cross-examination that Sciorra never went to police or a doctor about the alleged rape.

“At the time, I didn’t understand that that was rape,” Sciorra said. She testified earlier that she once thought rape was a crime perpetrated by strangers.

“I thought he was an OK guy. I felt confused. I felt like I wished I never opened the door,” she said.

The defence have also offered a different explanation for the women’s continued contact with him after the alleged attacks. In his opening statement this week, Weinstein lawyer Damon Cheronis zeroed in on a message from one woman telling Weinstein that she loved him and wanted him to meet her mother.

“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s not how you talk to your predator,” Cheronis said.

Weinstein’s trial is expected to last for at least three more weeks. If convicted on the more serious charges against him, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

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