At trial, accusers face a loaded question: Why stay in touch with Weinstein?

Kelly Sipherd said she wanted to confront her assailant.

In 1991, Sipherd was a 24-year-old aspiring actress when she met Harvey Weinstein at the Toronto International Film Festival. She enjoyed the conversation about novels and films they had over a few glasses of wine and thought it was a “great opportunity” for her nascent career to know the Hollywood mogul, she testified last week at Weinstein’s rape trial in Los Angeles.

Sipherd recalled how Weinstein invited her to his hotel room to watch an Irish film he wanted to adapt, telling her he thought she’d be great for a part in it. But within minutes of entering the room, Sipherd said, Weinstein was half undressed, clawing at her skirt. She said he raped her that night.

Seventeen years later, Sipherd saw Weinstein again. Thinking she’d finally get a chance to demand answers, she agreed when he again suggested a meeting in his hotel room. But when she arrived, Sipherd said, Weinstein’s aides left the room, and after a brief conversation, he masturbated in front of her without her consent.

During his cross examination, Alan Jackson, one of Weinstein’s defense attorneys, made it clear he thought Sipherd’s story was preposterous. If Weinstein had raped her, he asked, why would she willingly be in a room alone with him again?

Jackson’s line of inquiry was the type many of Weinstein’s accusers have had to face as his Los Angeles trial on charges of rape and sexual assault enters its third week. In all, eight women are expected to testify against the former film producer in coming weeks. They have been, or likely will be, grilled as Sipherd was over contact they had with Weinstein after he allegedly raped them.

To parry the strategy, prosecutors have brought in an expert on sexual assault to counter what one described as the “rape myths” offered up by Weinstein’s lawyers.

“This is probably the most difficult rape myth for people to grasp: that it is not uncommon for individuals to have subsequent contact with the perpetrator. Some people have continued contact because they want to decrease collateral damage,” forensic psychiatrist Dr. Barbara Ziv told jurors, referring to fears held by sexual assault victims that reporting their abuser might harm them professionally.


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