The trial of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein continued Friday with the prosecution calling Dr. Barbara Ziv, who shared expert testimony about the memories of sexual assault victims and tried to dispel certain rape myths surrounding them.
At least 85% of sexual assault victims know their attacker, Ziv testified. “In fact, it’s the norm,” she said of victims who continue to have contact with their attackers after the assault. The victims, she said, “don’t want it to get worse.”
Ziv’s testimony followed actress Annabella Sciorra’s, who Thursday told in vivid detail how Weinstein allegedly barged into her apartment 25 years ago and raped her.
“The Sopranos” actress testified Weinstein entered her Manhattan home in the winter of 1993-1994, chased her around and pinned her to the bed before sexually assaulting her.
“I felt overpowered because he was very big,” Sciorra told jurors Thursday.
Sciorra is one of six women expected to testify that they were attacked by Weinstein as state prosecutors, who opened their case this week, aim to establish a pattern of sex crimes against multiple victims to support two predatory sexual assault charges.
Prosecutors allege the movie tycoon raped and sexually assaulted young women and actresses over decades. Sciorra first publicly spoke about the attack in an October 2017 New Yorker story as part of a wave of accusations against him.
Weinstein also faces three other charges related to his alleged rape of Jessica Mann and for allegedly forcing oral sex on Mimi Haleyi. Sciorra’s claims fall outside the statute of limitations for other crimes.
Weinstein’s attorney during opening statements this week aimed to discredit the state’s “prior bad acts” witnesses, attacking their credibility and picking apart their timelines. Ziv, meantime, was expected to offer only speculation based on her expertise with sexual assault victims — not the witnesses in this case — defense attorney Damon Cheronis said Wednesday.
Expert pressed on past comments
The jury appeared to take periodic notes Friday while watching Ziv, who also testified for the prosecution in Bill Cosby’s trial.
It’s not uncommon, she said, for sexual assault victims to tell a friend or family member about the attack. But it’s normally not immediate and it’s still “very rare” for sexual assault victims to report their trauma to law enforcement.
Victims are often not properly questioned, Ziv stressed, and should be asked open-ended questions instead of specific details — like what the rapist wore or the day of the assault.
Ziv also said that many women don’t psychically fight off their attackers during a sexual assault. Physical resistance “other than struggling is pretty rare,” she said.
“That doesn’t mean that their allegation was wrong,” Ziv said. “It means the interviewing style was faulty.”
Ziv added on cross-examination that some don’t report sexual assault right away because they believe rape means only “stranger rape” legally.
Cheronis, the defense attorney, pressed Ziv about testimony she gave years ago that she didn’t believe a female accuser was actually raped.
“Are we retrying this case?” Ziv said at one point, smiling.
Cheronis also confronted Ziv with a quote she gave CNN in a past interview on the #MeToo movement.
“Just as you should not take anybody at their word for anything when there’s an allegation of criminal behavior,” she said. “That’s why we have investigators.”
Sciorra says she confronted him after the assault
Sciorra is best known for her Emmy-nominated role on “The Sopranos” as Gloria Trillo, Tony Soprano’s mistress.
She met Weinstein at an industry event in the early 1990s and became part of Miramax’s circle, attending events and dinners around New York City, Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast said in the trial’s opening statements.
In the winter of 1993-1994, after a dinner at an Irish restaurant in Manhattan, Weinstein offered Sciorra a ride to her apartment, she testified. She went in, put on a nightgown and was getting ready for bed when he knocked on the door. When she opened it, he pushed his way inside, Sciorra said.
Weinstein unbuttoned his shirt, she testified, grabbed her arm and dragged her into a bedroom.
Sciorra kicked, punched and fought him until he held her arms above her head on the bed and raped her, she testified. Weinstein pulled out of her to ejaculate on her duvet and her nightgown, she said. He then performed oral sex on her.
Sciorra did not put up much of a fight, she testified, because her body began shaking. She did not tell police about the incident, and she does not remember telling anybody about it for years, she said.
“I thought he was an OK guy. I felt confused,” Sciorra testified. “I felt … like I wished I had never opened the door.”
He showed up at her hotel room, Sciorra said
The attack left Sciorra shocked and traumatized, Hast told jurors Wednesday. She grew thin and sad, and began drinking and cutting herself, the prosecutor said.
Sciorra confronted Weinstein about the incident weeks later at a dinner in New York, the actress testified Thursday. His response was “very menacing,” she said.
“That’s what all the nice Catholic girls say,” he said, according to her testimony. He leaned into her and said, “This remains between you and I,” she said
Less than a year after the alleged rape, Weinstein sought Sciorra out in London, where she was filming a movie. He showed up at her hotel room and became angry when she refused to open the door, Hast said.
At a different event at the Cannes Film Festival in France, Sciorra learned she was in a hotel room next door to Weinstein, the actress testified. One morning, she opened the door and found him standing there in his underwear, with a bottle of baby oil in one hand and a movie tape in the other, she said.
She ran to the back of her room and began hitting the call buttons on the hotel phone, she testified. Hotel employees eventually came and Weinstein left, she said.
Defense attorney Donna Rotunno pressed Sciorra on her lack of memory on specific details and dates.
In opening statements, the defense team told jurors Sciorra’s friend will testify that she described having consensual sex with Weinstein.