“I Haven’t Exhaled in So Long”: Surviving Harvey Weinstein

Rose McGowen walks through a crowd.
For the actress Rose McGowan and many of the other women who have publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault, his conviction comes after years of frustration.Photograph by John Lamparski / Getty

On Monday, a Manhattan jury convicted Harvey Weinstein of sex crimes, and the Hollywood producer was remanded to police custody, where he awaits a sentence that could total more than twenty-five years in prison. Weinstein was found guilty of rape in the third degree against Jessica Mann, a former aspiring actress, and a criminal sex act in the first degree against Miriam Haley (formerly known as Mimi Haleyi), a former “Project Runway” production assistant, who claims that he forcibly performed oral sex on her. Weinstein will be sentenced on March 11th. He also awaits trial on separate charges in Los Angeles. Paul Thompson, the Los Angeles deputy district attorney, told me, “We are definitely proceeding.”

For many of the more than ninety women who have publicly accused Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault, the New York trial comes after years of frustration. For decades, Weinstein had been trailed by allegations of misconduct. In 2015, the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, dropped an effort to charge him, under pressure from Weinstein’s attorneys. One of the first women to speak publicly about Weinstein was the actress Rose McGowan, who alleges that the producer assaulted her in 1997, during the Sundance Film Festival. In 2016, she tweeted that she had been raped by an unnamed studio head. Several months later, she was among the first accusers to go on the record for my reporting. Her story also appears in my book, “.” Hours after the jury announced its verdict, McGowan agreed to be interviewed for The New Yorker2020欧洲杯最新战况 and a forthcoming episode of . During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed the impact of the decision on McGowan and other victims, and also on the #MeToo movement.

First of all, I often begin our conversations this way: How are you, Rose?

And I always, I think, answer, “Well, it’s another day in the twilight zone.” Which it is, but today it’s interesting. I’ve had to have this hardness that’s not native to me, to do what I had to do to cause the cultural reset that I wanted, to get the results I wanted—not like we’re talking about with the case today.

2020欧洲杯最新战况But what I feel connected with today by this verdict and what’s happened—I feel like the soft girl that I was before I walked into that room. The other day, someone asked, “What do you hope for?” I looked at them and I said, “I don’t. I don’t have—I don’t hope.” It’s not that I’m not optimistic. I just—it’s not part of my lexicon. Hope. What’s the point? What’s the goal? Survival—that’s my goal. But today I have this tiny feeling of, like, this little chrysalis opening in my heart and my chest right now that’s, like, I think it feels like that girl that walked in that room to be raped by Weinstein, you know, at ten in the morning.

Just going back to today. What has it been like for you? You said “twilight zone.” So what does that mean?

2020欧洲杯最新战况Today, today feels . . . I haven’t exhaled in so long.

And I know that every woman who has been affected by him and everybody who’s ever been affected by this period had this kind of collected breath held, right? And this is not a referendum on #MeToo, you know, which Tarana created as a language tool, right? “This happened to me, too”—that’s what it is.

Tarana Burke, the activist, who has been using this term for years.

Right. Of course, my thing was always quite different. I wanted a cultural reset. And I wanted it to happen a lot faster than what people were doing. And I also wanted to take out some trash.

And does this verdict bring you closer to any of those goals?

Well, the cultural reset already happened. That’s happened. I think this is like there’s two separate things going on for me. There’s the bigger, more macro, above-it-all goal that I had personally, as an activist and a fighter. And then, for the one who was hurt by him and has had to deal with seeing his face, like all his other victims.

This person was compulsive—is compulsive—you know. It’s pretty amazing to have one less rapist on the street, though. Especially a super rapist, like, head rapist in charge. Like, “I know I’m gonna be the Oscar winner of rapists. That’s what I’m going to be.”

You know better than most people how immovable the status quo can seem sometimes. So I can imagine that this was not necessarily the outcome you were expecting.

2020欧洲杯最新战况No. I was honestly shocked. And I’m still quite shocked, pleasantly, of course, because the other alternative is misery.

To see women sitting across from and accusing a man who was so insulated from accountability for so long.

It’s mind-boggling the kind of pathos and the level of dedication to rape that that man had. I mean, wow. That’s like, Wow, you’re really taking a hobby seriously. Actually, it was almost like the movies were the hobby, and this was, like, you know, it was like a rape factory.

So you looked at your phone this morning. You braced for the worst. And then, when you saw what had happened, what went through your mind?

Honestly, joy. And then I thought, I wonder if he’s gonna hire a hit man to kill me? That was my other thought. And then I thought, Should I have coffee this morning?

2020欧洲杯最新战况I think it’s a rejection, in some ways, of Donna Rotunno, the lawyer—I mean, that narrative.

Donna Rotunno, the attorney for Weinstein who said that she’d never put herself in the position to be sexually assaulted and who has made all these statements sort of inflected with the language of the alt-right, men’s-rights type of movement.

It’s a dog whistle. It’s the same thing that an alt-right person does about race or about Jews. That’s what she’s doing about women. And how’s that working out for you today, bitch?

You often found yourself telling things to the culture that, I think, to use a phrase you gave me, the culture wasn’t ready to hear.

I don’t think they’re ready. I don’t think anyone’s ever ready. I think they didn’t want to, but you have to get to a point where you’re, like, “I don’t care. Take your medicine.”

“Yeah, sorry. People are getting raped, people are getting killed. Women are dying. Boys are getting molested. We don’t have time. I know you’re uncomfortable. And this might make you examine some icky feelings you have inside and maybe something you’ve done or heard about, or maybe it was you, you know.” But, I think, if society is walking around with a festering sore on its leg, and the only thing they do is pull their pant leg down farther, that’s a very sick society. And I just thought, What is activism? I could sit there and join an organization and, like, fight for women’s rights, or I could just take a big sword, cut off the head of power, and be, like, See? This is how it’s done.

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Sometimes you have to lay on barbed wire so others can walk on your back. And that’s O.K. Because I can take it. It doesn’t make it fun. I honestly didn’t know if I’d survive it at one point.

We are both people who believe in the power of storytelling, including in cinema, to do a lot of good in the world for the culture. And yet, you’re right, we are also people who have grown up knowing a lot about the dark side of all of that and wanting it to be better, and to mistreat people less and to damage the culture less.

2020欧洲杯最新战况That’s it, it’s just, like, damage the culture less. If you are a gatekeeper of thought, you have to be really careful with what you’re putting into people’s heads. We have our social responsibility. It doesn’t mean everything has to be, like, some weighty tome or, you know, an Oscar kind of film, but put thought into what you do. Think about it. Don’t send a script to someone where the woman is carrying a laundry basket in every scene but never does the fucking laundry. Knock it off. It’s pretty basic. And it’s not that complicated to be better. The way I raised myself, when I was a runaway—I didn’t know how, and I knew I had to raise myself, living on my own since fifteen. I would just imagine what the best version of me would be. What would the most awesome version of me do? And I’m gonna imitate that. I was, like, Well, that’s probably what I should do. So I would just act as if, and then it would come true.

So you spent this time as a runaway, escaping from abusive situations, hardening yourself to those kinds of situations, developing defense mechanisms. And then you’re successful, and it’s exciting, but also Sundance ’97 happens. What was that like? How did that change your life?

2020欧洲杯最新战况We hear a lot about rape victims feeling guilt and shame. I never felt guilt or shame. Because I know I didn’t do it. It was so clear-cut. I luckily didn’t have to unpack that part of it. It was so clear-cut what was happening. I was at a breakfast meeting, and this happened. I was not on a date with this person.

2020欧洲杯最新战况It altered my life in such a monstrous way. Because also, at this point, I was already well known. I was already quite well known, and I had done a movie. I was making a billion dollars for his company. So I was quite well known, and now all of a sudden you get raped and blacklisted. So then what do you do? What job do you go get? You’re trapped. You’re stuck. You know, and that day was a terrible fucking day.

From the first interview we had, one of the most chilling things—as brutal as the description of physical violence was—was the system you described. You saying that it had felt, from the beginning, like a well-oiled machine, that there were people who wouldn’t meet your eye, in your view, because they knew this was part of a pattern.

Yes, it is. The system is rigged. And it’s rigged against us, the public. You know, I am a member of the public, too. And so are you. It’s rigged against all of us, some more than others, and the fact is that you have to think, like, Holy shit. We’re over a known count of a hundred. But, God, what if we were black women? How many would that take in Hollywood? Like, specifically, if it was him and only black women? Would that have ever been uncovered?

And you went through a long period after that of being in a state that I think so many women with stories of sexual violence spend a long time in, which is either being quiet about it or not being believed when you do make noise about it. That went on for years.

I never felt dirty about it because it was so clear. But what I did see was just an unrelenting lack of choice of how to be. Even when we use the terms “victim,” “survivor.” Some people say, like, “I hate it when people say ‘victim.’ ” I’m, like, “But that’s a fact. It happened that way. You are. But also, depending on the mood or day, you’re a survivor.”

And that’s why the tragedy of all this is that he went after really talented people, like really special people. He deprived the world of a lot of amazing art. He really, really did.

You then became one of the first women to start making noise publicly about Harvey Weinstein and these allegations. I think it’s fair to say that those tweets in 2016—

Well, I knew what I was doing. I was calling all the journalists to the yard at the time.

Take me back to the day when you decided to send out those first tweets about Harvey Weinstein.

I was reading other women’s tweets of why they don’t report. And I was, like, “I’ll tell you why. When your ex-fiancé director sells your movie to your rapist to distribute.” And I had already agreed to do the movie, and the director says that I said I’d always known that. That was not true.

And I was, like, O.K., it’s time, because I was being so fucked with behind the scenes. I was writing my book at this point. They were starting to come for me, like, making bones about it. Like, Harvey’s unhappy. I’m hearing about this, I’m hearing about that. And, like, you have to lawyer up. So then I was, like, O.K., who’s gonna tell the story? Who’s gonna do it? Because everybody so far has failed. Everybody’s failed. They failed these women, but they they failed society, more importantly, and it is a monolith to go up against.

So the tweets were premeditated. Do you remember what you were doing that day?

I was in the bathtub. And I was scrolling through my timeline. It was kind of at night, I think. And maybe I was, like, These women are so brave. These people are brave; I’m gonna be brave. It’s time.

You appeared outside of the trial on Day 1. Tell me about that.

That was very surreal. I didn’t want to see him. Some of the other women stood on the side while he walked in. I think some of them said that they wanted him to look at them, and I knew he wouldn’t have. Also, I’ve just seen that face quite enough for the rest of my natural life, thank you. But in his brain, I still don’t think he thinks he’s done anything wrong, because he’s sick. My quibble, my problem was always with the rest of them who aren’t supposedly sick. What’s wrong with them? The people who are the good people. So if we have to push and sometimes maybe even proactively bully these people into being better and leave them no other choice but to be better, then that’s what you have to do sometimes. At least that’s what I thought I had to do.

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Have you followed the trial, day in and day out?

2020欧洲杯最新战况I didn’t follow it day in and day out. I knew what was going to be said. I mean, it still filters in, and you hear horrible stuff, but I didn’t. Thank God, Annabella, and thank God, Mimi and Jessica. And, you know, thank God, because it’s hard as hell doing it from behind a keyboard every day, but to do it face to face—that’s a whole ’nother ball game.

Have you spoken to any other survivors during the trial?

2020欧洲杯最新战况Yeah, we’ve been on an e-mail chain.

What have those conversations been like?

I would summarize it by probably most of the women just being so used to—and I think this is not even native to Harvey Weinstein victims—just so used to being shit on by justice and having none. Even in the most, like—let’s go to Brock Turner, right? The Stanford case2020欧洲杯最新战况 where he was caught red-handed, literally, and still. We were, like, a hundred of us, but it didn’t matter. What more does it take? You feel like a hundred women went to the police precinct and said, This man stole our purse. I think, likely, he’d be arrested for that. So that’s easier to believe.

Harvey Weinstein was convicted of two sex crimes, but not of the more serious predatory sexual-assault charge that would have flowed from the jury buying into the idea that he had committed more than one sex crime in the first degree and this was a pattern. Those results are complicated for a lot of people. How do you feel about it?

The ones where the relationship goes on afterward, there’s just not a history of that winning. So that’s why I was kind of, like, Why were those specific ones brought? It’s extremely difficult.

It’s extremely significant that a jury acknowledged that you can have an act of sexual violence of some kind—rape in the third degree is what they found him guilty of, which is without physical compulsion, but it is a sex crime—and also have an ongoing relationship.

2020欧洲杯最新战况For the American jury system, it’s pretty revolutionary in a lot of ways.You know that women can be married and get raped. You know you can be in a relationship and get raped by your partner—same-sex, anything, again, you know, and that is huge, actually, and I think it will be significant. . . . I was expecting him to totally walk, to be honest with you. But the good thing is that it becomes an ongoing conversation, and the legal system needs to do more and get smarter when it comes to sexual-assault cases, for sure, and how they prosecute them and how they treat the victims and what is tolerated. And the kind of defense that Donna Rotunno, his attorney, was running, you know, we’ve heard all those kinds of things forever, forever. And they’re so boring.

She’s a real throwback.

2020欧洲杯最新战况Yes, Donna Rotunno was kind of a throwback. She said this really gross thing in her closing argument—this really bothered me—it was basically, like, Oh, yeah, women have to take responsibility for their own actions.

2020欧洲杯最新战况They are. That’s why they’re here testifying. This is their action, and they’re taking responsibility and then running their lives the best they can, in a horrible situation with the choices they’re given. So they are. Not in the way you would think. But it is layered. And I hope the charges in [Los Angeles] still go through. I hope that. I’m talking to the D.A. there.

I got an on-the-record quote from Paul Thompson, the assistant district attorney, and they are proceeding with the case. If you were asked to testify in that case, would you?

Yes. I’ll see this through. I just want to take out the trash.

The most serious charge Harvey Weinstein was convicted of today, the one involving Mimi Haleyi, is about a fact pattern that is strikingly similar to your own allegation and those of several other women who say Weinstein forced oral sex on them. What was it like reading or hearing her testimony? Did you read it? I could see that being painful.

And that one is almost verbatim. Except for the structure of the room. They could say to Mimi, like, Oh, that was just oral sex. To have someone’s face where you don’t want it, in the most vulnerable place—and that face, specifically—it’s a horror show. What she had to go through, I know what she went through and what those other women went through. I know what they went through. There’s pain here. There’s trauma, there’s consequence.

2020欧洲杯最新战况But I do hope that, for Mimi, for me, for all of us, and for all the women that won’t come forward because they saw what happened to us, I hope their bodies rest a little easier tonight. I had a nightmare last night. I woke up sweating again, you know, like, I had to change my pajamas. I get night terrors still, and it’s, like, damn, man. Come on. And I’m sure the trial spikes that stuff up, you know, the stress of it. But I’m really curious to see what will happen to the P.T.S.D. now. I don’t know; I’ve never been on this side of it. It’s a whole new world.

The term “justice” is also getting used a lot today. What does justice mean to you?

That’s a good question. Justice to me, it’s the stopping of him being able to do what he wants to do. What he wants to do is make money, be famous, and rape. So that’s some justice, yes.

This obviously is a story that’s much bigger than Hollywood. There are clearly Harvey Weinsteins in industry after industry, but it also does seem to have shaken the entertainment industry, or at least produced a lot of talk in the entertainment industry, about change. Has that happened? Do you believe it’s changed?

2020欧洲杯最新战况Do I think that all of a sudden the people out there are good people? No, but I think that they now know they’re on notice, and they have to have at least the perception of looking like good people. I think there are more people now who would be a lot less willing to go along with things, and I also, and this is kind of weird, but I’ll watch a show on Netflix or a movie, and I think, Oh, that young actress. He would have attacked her. He would have gotten her. So I’m watching people’s work and thinking, Oh, hopefully their career gets to take the natural course of what it’s meant to be for them. You know, without being interrupted by a monster who’s a trash compactor and eating every piece of thing around that he can swallow.

What do you think this trial, this verdict means for broader efforts to hold powerful people accused of terrible crimes accountable?

2020欧洲杯最新战况I think it shows that it can be done. And you know who that showed it to? Me. Because I didn’t know that. Because I had no evidence. No reason to, no hope. But there’s millions and millions and millions of people like me who are holding out hope. And maybe if this gave them one little feeling of, like, a David and Goliath kind of thing, like, I can matter. I can stand. I can count. I can point and say, “It was you, and you stole something from me, and you really shouldn’t have. You didn’t have to. This could have all gone very differently.”

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What would you like the lasting impact of this whole story to be?

2020欧洲杯最新战况The lasting impact is that rape is not about sex, that this is a story of us unravelling abuse of power. And I think that has to stop.

2020欧洲杯最新战况I think what’s revolutionary is just saying things. I just can’t stand gaslighting, by anybody. Because gaslighting leads to injustice, and it leads to pain and death.

How different or similar is this to what you thought might happen, how you felt things might play out, when you sent those tweets?

2020欧洲杯最新战况I’ve seen everything. I just never saw this part. I saw up until the news came out, and then after that I was kind of in a free fall, ’cause I was, like, Oh, my God, I’ve worked for twenty-some years to get to this point. Now what do I do? And I’m still not free-falling, but I’m still, like, Oh, now what? I can only vaguely remember what life was like before he took over. So I’m really curious to see what it’s like from here on out.


More on Harvey Weinstein

“The Black Cube Chronicles, Part II”: How a private spy who manipulated Rose McGowan in service of Harvey Weinstein was unmasked.

“The Black Cube Chronicles, Part I”: How two operatives tasked with surveilling reporters became embroiled in an international plot to suppress sexual-assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

From 2017: Harvey Weinstein’s accusers tell their stories.

From 2017: Rose McGowan speaks out about her arrest on drug charges.

From 2017: Annabella Sciorra on weighing the costs of speaking out.

From 2017: Harvey Weinstein’s secret settlements.

From 2018: Behind the scenes of Harvey Weinstein’s arrest.

Can Hollywood Change Its Ways?,” by Dana Goodyear

Harvey Weinstein’s army of spies.

Reading J. M. Coetzee’s ‘Disgrace’ During the Harvey Weinstein Trial,” by Jia Tolentino

Naomi Fry on the Weinstein trial and the myth of the perfect victim.

Naomi Fry on the Weinstein trial’s imperfect, moving conclusion.

Jia Tolentino on the opening statements in the Weinstein trial and the undermining of #MeToo.