By KERRY TINGA
On Monday, Feb. 24, Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of two felony sex crimes, criminal sexual assault in the first degree and rape in the third degree, by a Manhattan jury. The now-convicted sexual offender faces a possible sentence of between five and 29 years. For 27-year-old Filipina-Italian model Ambra Gutierrez, an outspoken sexual assault victim of Weinstein, this was the justice she had been waiting for for the past five years.
The widespread allegations in a New York Times and The New Yorker report against Weinstein in October 2017 lead to the spread of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Pulitzer Prize-winning Ronan Farrow wrote The New Yorker expose with the cooperation of Gutierrez. Chapter 9 of Catch and Kill, Farrow’s book that details his investigation into the Weinstein allegations, is almost entirely dedicated to Gutierrez’s story, and she is mentioned throughout the groundbreaking investigation.
In 2015, Gutierrez was introduced to Weinstein, who took an interest in her. During what was meant to be a “business meeting,” he tried to force himself on to her. After the attack, Gutierrez did something many were afraid to do: she went to the police and filed a report. With the Special Victims Unit, they devised a plan where Gutierrez would meet Weinstein again, this time wearing a wire.
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) October 10, 2017
In his book, Farrow mentions the political influence Weinstein’s legal team had, including donations they had made to the campaign of District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. Two weeks after Gutierrez’s report, and despite an audio recording that includes a confession by Weinstein that he was “used to” groping women without their consent, the district attorney’s office announced that they decided not to press charges because “a criminal charge [was] not supported.”
As terrible as the decision was, it was far from over for Gutierrez. The tabloids were running stories that attacked Gutierrez’s character in a smear campaign Farrow attributes to Weinstein’s connections with the National Enquirer. She felt that history was repeating itself, having experienced negative press after she testified against Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi in 2010 regarding the notorious “bunga bunga” parties. For the second time in her life, she was being punished for speaking out against the sexual exploitation of women she had experienced first hand.
Then 22 years old, and at the urging of her attorneys, the only option she thought she could take was reaching a settlement with Weinstein, which would include a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that she confessed in an interview with Farrow she barely understood. She just wanted the harassment by the media to end.
“After the contract was signed, Gutierrez became depressed and developed an eating disorder,” writes Farrow. “Eventually, her brother, who was concerned, came to the United States. ‘He knew I was really bad,’ she said. He took her to Italy and then the Philippines ‘to start again.’ She told me, ‘I was completely destroyed.’”
Despite all she had endured, when Farrow began working on his expose and contacted Guttierez, she found the strength within her to cooperate and do what she knew was right. Justice needed to be served, not just for her sake, but for all victims. As the journalist ran through his evidence to his supervisor, he mentioned “Gutierrez’s unwavering willingness to be named and to lead the story.”
After Farrow’s expose ran in The New Yorker, and an article was published in The New York Times by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey detailing similar accusations, the New York Police Department, London’s Metropolitan Police Service, and the Los Angeles Police Department began reviewing allegations against Weinstein. It also triggered the wider spread of the #MeToo movement, which has been applied beyond the film industry to shed light on sexual abuse prevalent in various industries and around the world.
In an interview with Court TV after the conviction of Weinstein in New York earlier this week, Gutierrez said she felt “happiness, pure happiness.”
— Court TV (@CourtTV) February 24, 2020
“This is the verdict I was really wishing for,” she continued. “Not just for myself, but to establish a positive outcome and experience to everything, so that we can move forward the conversation so that things like this should not get to this point.”
Gutierrez mentioned that she will be a witness in the Los Angeles trial, where Weinstein faces charges for two incidents, rape and sexual assault, reported to have occurred over two days in 2013.