Rowena Chiu claims Harvey Weinstein tried to rape her on a enterprise journey in 1998. She had solely met Weinstein two instances and had begun working as a brand new assistant at Miramax, only one month previous to the Venice Movie Competition when the alleged incident occurred. Throughout a late-night assembly to debate movie productions and scripts, Chiu says she declined Weinstein’s request for massages, earlier than the producer pushed her up towards the mattress and took off her tights. Chiu managed to flee the room, however the lasting results of the incident by no means went away.
Greater than 20 years later, Weinstein — who’s serving a 23-year sentence in New York state jail after being convicted on two costs of rape within the third diploma and a legal intercourse act — nonetheless denies the assault ever occurred.
“I’m breaking my NDA proper now,” Chiu tells Variety in an unique interview, performed over the cellphone from her Northern California dwelling the place she is quarantined together with her husband and 4 youngsters. “He might sue me for each single interview I’ve ever completed for breaking my NDA, however in observe, he’s in all probability not going to. He’s acquired larger issues.”
In a press release to Variety, a consultant for the incarcerated Weinstein says, “Harvey had at all times revered Ms. Chiu and handled her as a detailed and trusted pal. He solely has emotions of fondness for her, and finally disappointment for a way her reminiscences of him appeared to have manifested to what we hear right this moment. He at all times hopes for her finest and nonetheless needs her solely pleasure and happiness.”
A stay-at-home mother, Chiu stayed silent for greater than 20 years, fearing the security of her household. Over the previous six months, she has joined the refrain of greater than 100 girls who’ve publicly accused Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault and sacrificed their privateness, changing into activists working towards the tip of sexual harassment within the office.
Chiu first revealed her story in Sept. 2019 on the “Immediately” present and in Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s e book, “She Mentioned,” adopted up by an op-ed within the New York Occasions. She didn’t communicate out for greater than 20 years after her alleged assault, and two years after the dominoes started to fall for Weinstein when the bombshell tales broke within the Occasions and the New Yorker, detailing a number of accusations of sexual assault and harassment towards the previous film mogul.
Now, for the primary time since Weinstein started serving his jail sentence, Chiu speaks candidly in an in-depth, wide-ranging dialog, as she remembers the horror of signing an iron-clad nondisclosure settlement at 24 years previous. Chiu, who’s British, says the settlement was so restrictive, she was even banned from talking of the fee she obtained from Weinstein to authorities officers, if she had been ever questioned by tax authorities. As a substitute, the doc said authorities must attain out to Weinstein’s attorneys in London. After she had minimize ties from Weinstein’s firm, Chiu nonetheless felt as if the highly effective producer had eyes and ears on her wherever she was on the planet. The trauma of her expertise led her to try suicide twice, she says.
“He might sue me for each single interview I’ve ever completed for breaking my NDA, however in observe, he’s in all probability not going to. He’s acquired larger issues.”
As allegation after allegation got here pouring out in 2017, Chiu selected to stay nameless. In any case, she had already harbored her secret for 20 years. She had little interest in changing into a public identify, plus, she was sure to the non-disclosure settlement.
After the ’98 Venice Movie Competition, Chiu confided in her colleague to whom she reported, Zelda Perkins, then 25 years previous, who was shocked and horrified at what Weinstein had completed, and determined to escalate the difficulty at Miramax. The 2 girls banded collectively and employed a lawyer, however Weinstein’s crew pressured them into signing the NDA that without end locked them into silence.
“I might have by no means mentioned something. None of what had occurred would have occurred with out Zelda,” Chiu says. “She has a robust ethical middle and she was outraged. She was very protecting of me.”
Perkins, who has just lately spoken to members of Parliament to push for modifications to laws round non-disclosure agreements within the U.Okay., didn’t grasp the magnitude of standing as much as Weinstein, on the time that she escalated the difficulty of Weinstein’s misconduct at Miramax. “I genuinely didn’t suppose I used to be doing something courageous. I solely suppose it’s courageous for those who suppose one thing dangerous goes to occur, and I naively thought that it was the traditional factor to do,” she says. “Ethical habits must be regular — not courageous, not whistleblowing, not brave.”
The agreements signed by Chiu and Perkins exemplify the abuse of energy and the lengths that enormous firms will go to, to be able to defend people in positions of energy, beneath the guise of authorized safety.
“For me, this has at all times been much less about Harvey Weinstein or anybody man’s habits — it has been in regards to the system that allows this habits,” Perkins provides. “Energy is a privilege. Your habits ought to grow to be extra impeccable with energy; not much less impeccable.”
The NDA between Chiu and Miramax names Weinstein and his brother Bob as one of many many beneficiaries of the settlement, and is signed by Weinstein and his firm’s former lawyer, Steve Hutensky. Variety has reviewed the NDA and can verify the contents talked about by Chiu within the dialog under.
You didn’t testify in New York, however do you consider that you simply -- and different girls -- coming ahead together with your tales performed a job within the consequence of the trial?
It wasn’t simply the six girls who took the stand, however clearly these six girls paid a a lot larger worth. It took so lengthy to get right here. A whole bunch, if not hundreds, of individuals through the years needed to commit a lot time, power and emotion simply to go up towards one man. That claims quite a bit. Once you take a look at the social phenomenon, it’s fairly superb that every one of those totally different folks got here collectively to rally for one trigger. But additionally, for those who take a look at it in a extra pessimistic means, why does it take this many individuals? In case you are by your self, for those who’re Tara Reade protruding towards Joe Biden, you’re not likely getting any press.
“It’s just like the mafia. This settlement needed to not exist. This fee needed to not exist.”
Talking of the Biden allegation, what's your take, and particularly with the way it’s been coated by the press?
It hasn’t gotten any consideration within the media. I’m not at liberty to evaluate the info of the case, however having been somebody who had lots of people say to me, “Nobody is ever going to hearken to your story as a result of it occurred in a resort room and solely you and Harvey had been within the room,” I really feel sympathetic for people who find themselves making an attempt to inform a narrative, however are being shut down. It’s actually laborious for those who’re a lone voice. Zelda and I had been two voices and that already made it significantly better, however on the time, no one believed us. Even the individuals who thought we’d have been telling the reality instructed us there was no level in pursuing as a result of we might by no means get wherever.
You and Zelda at the moment are in common communication, however previous to the #MeToo motion, when was the final time you two had spoken?
Oh by no means! Are you kidding me?
You by no means spoke as soon as, after you each signed your NDAs in 1998?
No. By no means. We had the concern of God put into us. We had been instructed by our personal lawyer — not even simply Harvey’s attorneys — that we should deal with this time as a black gap. It mentioned very particularly in our contract that we are able to solely refer in very basic phrases to having labored for Harvey, and we are able to by no means speak in any element about any side of our life throughout this time ever to anyone — not simply the media and attorneys and docs and therapists, however there was additionally a clause about pals and household. It locked us out of any sort of emotional assist in anyway.
Did your NDA allow you to talk to anybody?
No. It’s just like the mafia. This settlement needed to not exist. This fee needed to not exist. If the tax authorities contacted us, we needed to ship them again to Harvey’s attorneys in London. We couldn’t even admit to its existence if Her Majesty’s Authorities despatched officers to ask us about it. It’s completely staggering, the extent of his conceitedness, narcissism and perception that he was past any form of energy or authority. And you recognize what? He was pals with Prince Andrew. He acquired invited to Beatrice’s 18th celebration along with his buddy Jeffrey Epstein [in 2006]. He in all probability thought he had the British Royal Household consuming out of his hand. The Queen gave him a CBE [Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire] for his providers to the British movie business [in 2004]. He thought he was of the elite group that didn’t need to reply to the police or the authorized system and even tax authorities.
You had been by no means let loose of your NDA, so how did you finally determine to return ahead and communicate out?
There was by no means a time that I used to be launched from my NDA. In truth, the day after I spoke on the “Immediately” present in Sept. 2019, [Weinstein’s lawyer] Donna Rotunno mentioned there was no factual foundation to something [I] mentioned and that Harvey Weinstein and I had a consensual, bodily relationship for six months and Harvey was taking a look at methods to convey authorized motion towards [me] for breaking my NDA. On that day, they threatened to sue me, and there may be at all times that menace.
You’re breaking your NDA to talk to me proper now. Are you involved of operating that threat?
He’s acquired 111 girls talking out towards him, he’s already completed one legal trial in New York and he’s acquired one other upcoming legal trial in L.A., so to be sincere, he’s not going to waste his time or cash suing me. I don’t have any cash, so what’s the purpose of suing me? However legally, he’s inside his rights to sue me and convey a case towards me that claims give again the settlement cash. Each time I communicate out, I run that threat.
With all this mentioned, do you consider that NDAs must be eradicated fully?
NDAs must be banned as a device to cowl up sexual harassment, unequivocally. Should you rape somebody, that’s a reportable crime. To say, “I’m going to have you ever signal a authorized doc, in an effort to’t go to the police or attorneys to debate what occurred to you,” that’s simply plain incorrect.
There's a public false impression that if a girl indicators an NDA, she simply desires cash. That is perhaps true in some instances, however most of the Harvey survivors have expressed they felt compelled into signing an NDA. In your state of affairs, did you even need cash?
At the moment, we had been actually younger girls who truly didn’t need cash – we spent lots of time arguing to not get cash. We spent hours in that legislation workplace arguing for clauses that might cease Harvey and defend different girls. However, if you’re one little tug boat, how do you flip the Titanic round? It’s heartbreaking – whenever you learn our NDAs, you see the trail and the sample the place she tried to put out a blueprint to cease Harvey.
What had been among the clauses that you simply tried to get into the NDA to cease Harvey’s habits towards different girls?
Stuff like Harvey should go to intercourse remedy, so he has to confess that he has an habit to intercourse. After which there was all the company stuff we tried to place in about how complaints had been dealt with — we even went as far as to say that if there may be one other girl who brings an accusation ahead [within two years of the signed NDA] and Harvey feels compelled to settle together with her for $35,000 or up, he’ll robotically resign from Miramax and report himself to the Walt Disney Co. How unimaginable would it not have been if he had to try this inside two years of 1998? This entire factor would have been cracked open in 1999.
Did that clause, which said Harvey would wish to report himself to the Walt Disney Co., which owned Miramax on the time, make it into the NDA?
Properly, if he did settle with a girl throughout that point interval, he clearly didn’t adjust to that clause.
It’s superb, isn’t it?
However it’s a legally binding doc. So, are you suggesting that Harvey and his attorneys simply blatantly ignored the protections put into the NDA?
Properly, we are able to’t truly reveal that anybody disobeyed any legal guidelines. We’d need to discover a girl that he paid off [in that timeframe], and then let’s imagine, “Whats up, you didn’t report your self to Disney.” If we knew of a girl who was assaulted by Harvey throughout that point interval and was paid off, and Harvey didn’t resign from Miramax and didn’t flip himself in to Michael Eisner, we might all go collectively to a decide.
What clauses did you attempt to get within the NDA that didn’t make it into the authorized doc?
We fought actually laborious to have a very easy clause that mentioned Harvey should journey with one male assistant at any time.
Zelda pushed for that particular clause, in order that Harvey wouldn’t be alone with a girl when he was touring. What was the reasoning for the clause not being put into the NDA?
We needed to give that clause up as a result of they insisted that we offer them with a listing of the names and addresses of our pals and household, which is simply evil. Why would we give them a listing of names and addresses of our pals and household? Now, everyone knows about Black Dice and the Purple Flag checklist, however even then, I assumed that I might actually be placing them at risk. I assumed Harvey would rent folks to go round to my boyfriend’s house or my poor mother and father and there can be black vans sitting outdoors their dwelling.
[Black Cube is the P.I. agency made up of former members of Israeli intelligence, which Weinstein hired to follow Ronan Farrow; the Red Flag List is the list of names Weinstein sent to private investigators, asking them to research individuals whom he believed had incriminating information.]
We printed the names on the Purple Flag Listing at Variety once they grew to become accessible in public courtroom paperwork, after the trial. Do you know that your identify was on that checklist?
I didn’t know that I used to be on there, till my identify was truly printed in your article. I truly knew that Zelda was on it as a result of she had agreed to fulfill with a number of journalists, however I used to be at all times so secretive and [Harvey’s] crew by no means contacted me in 20 years, so naively, I assumed that I had been forgotten.
Do you remorse signing the NDA?
There was no different means. We didn’t need to signal the NDA. We simply needed to stroll away, and we might attempt, and they might say issues like, “We all know the place your mother and father stay.” So, I felt that we had been compelled to signal the NDA due to the security of our pals and household.
When was the primary time you instructed your husband about your incident with Weinstein?
In August 2017 as a result of Jodi Kantor confirmed up and stopped my husband on the minivan and mentioned she had cause to consider that his spouse labored for Harvey Weinstein and signed a non-disclosure settlement. I used to be visiting my mother and father out of city, and my husband known as and mentioned, “There’s a New York Occasions journalist on our driveway.” I mentioned, “Oh s—t!” to myself as a result of journalists would come and go over the 20 years, however nobody ever got here within the 10 years that I had been married. I simply mentioned, “Don’t fear, it’ll go away,” and I defined to him that journalists have tried, however the story would by no means come out. Then the story printed that October, and my husband examine [the mistreatment] of Zelda’s colleague, and he knew I used to be Zelda’s colleague. So, we by no means sat down and had a heart-to-heart, however particulars simply got here out.
And also you hadn’t instructed your mother and father about Weinstein both, appropriate?
No person knew something. After I sat on the sofa on the “Immediately present” and broke my story to hundreds of thousands of individuals in 2019, I had solely instructed my mother and father 10 days earlier.
Do you remorse coming ahead, given all the public consideration?
There’s a duality about going public. After I wrote my op-ed within the New York Occasions, lots of people mentioned to me, “Your voice is lastly free.” For a nanosecond, you are feeling liberated. However then in a short time, folks tweet about it, they remark and then different journalists name you about it, so the story snowballs and develops a character of its personal. After I first went on the “Immediately” present, I assumed I’d go on the present and go dwelling. I used to be the 81st sufferer, so I assumed possibly folks wouldn’t concentrate. However it didn’t occur that means. I saved getting contacting by the press, I’ve been invited to talk on panels and roundtables about sexual assault.
I’m positive there are elements of coming ahead which are rewarding, however on the similar time, even the accolades may be overwhelming. Had been you ready for this stage of consideration?
In some methods, it’s been higher than I assumed. I haven’t had the Christine Blasey Ford [who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault] expertise as a result of folks have been largely sympathetic to the Weinstein survivors. My youngsters haven’t been hounded. I’ve obtained this overwhelming swell of assist, which has been phenomenal. However on the opposite hand, I wasn’t ready for this stage of ongoing media consideration, and it’s one thing you possibly can by no means change. I’m not searching for fame, however now, you go to Google and there are lots of of hits of my identify and Harvey Weinstein.
It should be overwhelming to have your identify all of a sudden grow to be so public. However then so as to add one other layer, is it additionally robust to see your identify publicly related to Harvey Weinstein?
For the final six months, I’ve been fully within the public eye, which has been a very odd expertise for one thing whose identify wasn’t identified prior — I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow or Ashley Judd. I wasn’t well-known, so I went from being a stay-at-home mother to being on tv. I don’t know that’s what I might have needed my legacy in life to be, to at all times be related to Harvey Weinstein, so that’s painful and that could be a sacrifice. It’s a worthwhile sacrifice due to the variety of letters I’ve gotten from sexual assault survivors. However I don’t say that evenly as a result of the price of talking out is excessive.
You’ve spoken about unbalanced energy dynamics, with reference to gender, standing, wealth and race. How do you suppose race performed into Harvey’s predation?
Within the 90s, he had instructed Zelda that he “doesn’t do” Chinese language or Jewish. Then later, when he tried to rape me, he instructed me that he had by no means had a Chinese language lady earlier than. To begin with, that’s a very disgusting assertion, and reveals a lack of know-how of the nuance of racism. Then, he began saying that he appreciated Chinese language ladies as a result of they’re “discreet.” Not solely is he objectifying and stereotyping, but it surely’s additionally very sinister – he’s principally saying, “I’ve hazed you a few instances by yelling at you in public, and you didn’t complain and you’re not going to inform anybody. That is going to be our little secret.”
[Perkins confirms that the first night Weinstein met Chiu was in London in summer 1998, before a private screening of “Shakespeare In Love.” Chiu was a brand-new assistant who Perkins had hired, so she asked Harvey, “What did you think of Rowena, she’s really smart, isn’t she?” and he responded with, “I don’t do Jews or Asians.”]
Throughout the trial, the A.D.A.’s painted an image of how Harvey would set out for his prey, by focusing on particular girls who “handed the check,” or in different phrases, girls who would by no means inform anybody about his abuse.
It’s like he was saying, “You’re the form of one who isn’t going to talk out and complain as a result of that’s how Chinese language individuals are.”
Do you consider that as a result of you're a particular person of shade, he thought he might silence you extra simply?
Completely. What’s superb about this entire difficult racial dynamic is that I truly did play into it as a result of it’s true that I used to be raised as somebody who didn’t complain and who was obedient. For all of his faults, Harvey was good at studying folks and manipulating conditions.
Harvey was sentenced to 23 years in New York jail, and he faces a possible most sentence of 32 years with the L.A. trial. He's additionally dealing with authorized woes within the U.Okay. Now that a while has handed for the reason that trial ended and you’ve been capable of sit with the information, do you are feeling like justice has been served?
I feel for Harvey, we couldn’t have requested for extra. He had a completely staggering fall from grace. He’s any individual we thought we might by no means oust as a result of he was so highly effective. To even see him in courtroom is actually superb. The entire concept of 23 years is a present to his accusers who at all times thought he would stroll free and make motion pictures and foster younger girls. All of us thought there can be no accountability.
In case your incident had occurred right this moment in 2020, and there had been one other case as monumental as Harvey Weinstein, do you suppose your state of affairs would have been dealt with in a different way and folks would have believed you?
I need to say sure, however instinctively, I really feel no. It took this many ladies and an entire motion that couldn’t be ignored to convey Harvey down. I feel some issues have modified, however I wouldn’t say it’s a sea-change and issues are going to be a lot simpler for accusers going ahead. That is only the start of what we hope to see as a long-term societal, cultural change.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.)