Updated: August 17, 2022
It took more than 20 years for Rowena Chiu to reveal Harvey Weinstein‘s alleged attempted rape.
The movie mogul’s former assistant is one of several accusers speaking out in a newdocumentary onInvestigation Discovery (ID) titled “Harvey Weinstein: ID Breaking Now,” which features interviews withRosanna Arquetteand Italian modelAmbra Battilana Guiterrez, among others.
On March 11, the 68-year-old producer was sentenced in New York City to 23 years in prison for third-degree rape and a criminal sex act as he maintained he simply had consensual “extramarital affairs” with the victims.
Weinstein was convicted on two counts: criminal sex act for the 2006 assault of a production assistant and rape in the third degree for the 2013 attack on another woman. On the criminal sex act count, he faced a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 25 years, while the third-degree rape count carried a maximum penalty of four years in prison.
Rowena Chiu was one of several Weinstein accusers who participated in ‘Harvey Weinstein: ID Breaking Now.’
“Was justice served? I think that’s a difficult question to answer,” Chiu, 45, told Fox News. “He’s in jail purportedly for 23 years, which is much more than any of us could have expected. And so there was much rejoicing on the day of the verdict… There is a significant victory and it’s a statement to the world and other powerful wealthy predators – that you can’t just get away with this. And for some of us, we sort of expected the worst. We’ve been condition to expect nothing.”
“But … more than 90 women have come forward with stories about Harvey Weinstein,” Chiu continued. “What happens to them? He has destroyed so many lives in over three decades. So relatively speaking, 23 years is nothing. I had two suicide attempts. I never went to work in film again. Many of us have struggled, mental health-wise. Making new relationships has certainly been difficult.”
In 1996, Chiu had graduated from Oxford with a degree in English literature and had dreams of pursuing the film industry, theNew York Timesreported. In 1998, Chiu was hired to assist Weinstein in London on his European productions.
“At the time, Miramax was a company that everybody wanted to work for because the opportunities were boundless in terms of getting exposure in Hollywood,” she recalled.
Miramax Films executive Harvey Weinstein (3rd L) and actress Gwyneth Paltrow (3R) w. producers of Shakespeare in Love holding their Oscars in Press Room at Academy Awards.
However, future colleague Zelda Perkins warned Chiu that the big break came with challenges. Chiu was told she would have to handle Weinstein “robustly.”
“He was known for being a difficult person, crude, and just someone filled with rage,” Chiu recalled. “It was advertised in the interview that he was hard to manage and his fits of anger were challenging. I suppose there was a belief in the film industry that the more dues you pay at the beginning of your career in terms of dealing with difficult personalities, the faster you would be promoted. And Harvey wasn’t the first boss with a difficult personality.”
“Many agents were known to lash out,” Chiu reflected. “Phones would be thrown, scripts would be thrown. It was a very dramatic industry. But there’s a big difference between working with someone who’s a legend with a reputation for being difficult and thinking you’re going to be raped at work.”
Chiu said that while Weinstein had “moments of great charm,” he was also “angry almost all the time.”
“He would always enter a room with great gusto,” she said. “He would either be super happy about something, loud and charming, or he would be furious.”
(Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
In September 1998, Chiu accompanied her boss to the Venice Film Festival where he was promoting his film “Rounders.” Chiu said she was on “high alert” and determined to make sure the trip went smoothly out of fear she would be fired.
Chiu said that leading up to the alleged attempted rape, she fended off requests for massages.
“I think he didn’t want to scare you immediately,” she reflected. “If he just grabs you, as an assistant, you’re going to immediately freak out. Instead, he tries things like, ‘It’s quite normal for me to be naked. This is what I do all the time.’ As an assistant, you think, ‘This is unusual, but he’s a big, powerful Hollywood film producer. Maybe this is how things are normally done. I’m just going to stand in a corner and keep myself very quiet and hopefully, he’ll go away.’”
During the trip, Chiu had a late-night meeting with Weinstein alone in a hotel room where she was expected to discuss potential film productions and scripts.
Rowena Chiu said movie mogul Harvey Weinstein attempted to rape her.
“I did try to persuade myself, ‘This a weird thing Hollywood producers do,’” she said. “‘But it won’t go further. We’re just here to talk about scripts, which is what I’m supposed to be doing for work.’”
At one point, Chiu claimed she found herself pushed back against the bed.
“He parted my legs and said, ‘Just one thrust and it will all be over. Everybody else does this,’” Chiu alleged in the documentary. “‘… If you do this, you can do anything you want in the film industry.’”
Chiu also alleged that Weinstein told her that he’d “never had Chinese girls before.” She claimed Weinstein continued his demands, saying, “Just one thrust and I promise I’ll pull out.”
According to the New York Times, a terrified Chiu pleaded with Weinstein to let her go, saying they should return to reviewing scripts, that she had a boyfriend and that Perkins would worry for her. She told the outlet that eventually “I was able to wriggle off the bed and leave.” She believed that at the time, Weinstein let her go because there would be another opportunity for him to try again.
Harvey Weinstein (L) and Bob Weinstein pose with the Motion Picture Showmanship Award backstage at the 52nd Annual ICG Publicists Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 20, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.
(Photo by Mathew Imaging/WireImage)
The next day, Chiu shared what happened to Perkins. The women quickly banded together and attempted to report Weinstein to his superiors. But despite hiring a lawyer, Chiu said Weinstein came armed with his own team of attorneys who reportedly bullied the women, allegedly insisting no one would believe their story. They were ultimately pressured into signing a nondisclosure agreement that prevented them from speaking out.
Chiu told the New York Times the negotiations “were conducted under conditions of extreme duress.” The women were reportedly once kept at the office overnight, escorted to the bathroom and “provided with the barest minimum of food and drink.” They were also reportedly not permitted to have pen and paper handy to keep notes.
Chiu initially believed that after her ordeal was over, she would be able to bounce back to work in the film industry. However, she found herself blacklisted. Privately living in fear, unable to obtain psychiatric treatment for her trauma and unable to speak out, Chiu said she attempted to take her life twice.
But Chiu wasn’t alone. More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of inappropriate to criminal behavior, from intimidating sexual advances to rape over the years. Weinstein has denied the accusations and contends that any sexual activity was consensual.
Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan courthouse for jury deliberations in his rape trial, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in New York.
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Rumors about Weinstein’s behavior swirled in Hollywood circles for a long time, but he managed to silence many accusers with payoffs, nondisclosure agreements and the constant fear that he could crush their careers if they spoke out. Weinstein’s efforts to silence his accusers and thwart journalists who sought to expose his secrets included hiring Black Cube, an Israeli spy agency staffed by former Mossad agents.
Weinstein was finally arrested and led away in handcuffs in May 2018, seven months after The New York Times and The New Yorker exposed his alleged misconduct in stories that would win the Pulitzer Prize.
The Weinstein Co. went bankrupt after his disgrace. A tentative settlement was reached last year to resolve nearly all lawsuits stemming from the scandal. It would pay Weinstein’s alleged victims about $25 million. Under the proposed deal, Weinstein would not have to admit any wrongdoing or personally pay anything; the studio’s insurance companies would cover the cost.
In 2019, Chiu came out publicly in the book “She Said,” penned by the two New York Times journalists who broke the story on Weinstein,Page Sixreported.
Rowena Chiu today.
(Photo by HGL/GC Images)
Chiu said more work still needs to be done.
“Is it justice within a system when women are assaulted and often not believed?” she said. “We have a lot of work to do. … The legal system needs reform. We have a long way to go before true justice can be achieved.”
If you or someone you know is suffering from abuse, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
“Harvey Weinstein: ID Breaking Now” airs Sunday, April 12 at 10 p.m. EST on ID.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.