I also didn’t physically resist Mark. I also felt like an idiot. I also felt numb. I also then wondered whether Mark’s actions counted as sexual assault. Then, in my 20s, I was raped by a co-worker, someone I also considered a friend. Pretending it never happened allowed me to return to the office the next day. Seeing this co-worker afterward, I felt some brief sense of control. If I could work with this man, then surely I could get past the rape.
After Weinstein allegedly raped Mann, she testified that she “entered into what I thought was going to be a real relationship with him—and it was extremely degrading from that point on.” Weinstein’s attorneys pointed to this as further proof that he couldn’t have possibly raped her. Dating her attacker may give a survivor some sense of power. If you’ve ever laughed despite feeling profound grief, then you understand that sometimes our actions and feelings don’t predictably align.
After 14 years of silence between Mark and me, I interviewed him for a book I was writing. Talking with him again all these years later—shaping the narrative—was my way of taking control. He explained he knew that what he was doing that night was wrong while he was doing it, but he did it anyway. “It was a huge betrayal,” he said. “I’ve felt terrible about it for however many years now. I have to admit I was really surprised to hear from you. I kind of assumed I never would again.”
Even all these years later, I tried to accommodate him. While transcribing the audio of our conversations, I noticed that I often handed the power back to him, telling him, “So this is how I remember the event, but correct me if you have a different memory.” Early in our conversation, I even comforted him, saying, “I hope you know that I don’t hate you, or anything like that,” “I hope it’s in some way helpful for you to know that I genuinely believe you’re a good guy,” and “I hope this is somewhat helpful for you to talk about.”
When I pointed this out to Mark on a later call, we both laughed at how deferential I could be. “It’s embarrassing,” I told him. “I didn’t know I did it that much.” He called it “endearing.” I called it “absurd.” He and I sometimes even slipped into reminiscing about high school, as if the rape had never happened. It wasn’t hard to pretend that everything was okay. I had spent years trying to avoid thinking about what he did.
Read: Bad hookup, or sexual assault? Sometimes the friends decide.
At Weinstein’s trial, I wasn’t surprised that his defense attorneys relied on these stereotypes about how women should react to an assault. But I did wonder whether his attorneys either had a low-grade understanding of human behavior or figured the jury did. Did they not know? Or did they know, but not care? Maybe they cared but told themselves they were just doing their job, protecting the sanctity of due process. And then I heard his lawyer Donna Rotunno on The New York Times’ podcast The Daily. Megan Twohey, one of the Times journalists who broke the story about Weinstein’s pattern of abuse, interviewed Rotunno six days after the trial started.