The woman whose rape allegation against Harvey Weinstein is at the center of his New York criminal case testified Friday that the word “no” was “like a trigger” for the movie producer, who she says assaulted her in a hotel room about seven years ago.
Jessica Mann, now 34, was an aspiring actor when she first met Weinstein at a party in the Hollywood Hills. According to Mann, Weinstein asked for her phone number and began pursuing a relationship with her from the start. In the beginning, at least, it did not involve physical contact, and Mann said she found it flattering.
“When I met Harvey, I had given up a lot to be in Hollywood,” said Mann, who grew up in a small town in Washington state and moved to Los Angeles at the age of 25 to pursue an acting career. “With my religious background and everything, I thought God was blessing me, having met him,” she said. “I thought it was a blessing.”
That began to change as Weinstein began pressuring her to give him a massage in a Los Angeles hotel room, she testified. When Mann expressed discomfort about being in his suite, she testified that Weinstein laughed and replied, “I am a harmless old man.”
Weinstein, 67, who has pleaded not guilty to the rape and to a separate sexual assault allegation from 2006, watched and occasionally scribbled notes as Mann portrayed what she said was an increasingly abusive relationship that began with forced oral sex in the Los Angeles hotel and progressed from there. “If he heard the word no, it’s like a trigger for him,” Mann said, adding that she faked an orgasm and told Weinstein it was the “best” she ever had to end the moment.
Mann said the alleged rape occurred in March 2013, when she was in New York City and Weinstein came to the hotel where she was staying. By then, Mann testified that despite having had occasional sexual relations with Weinstein, she had no romantic or physical interest in him and was trying to avoid any sexual relations. But she said he led her to his room, blocked her from leaving when she tried to get out, and raped her without using a condom.
That night, instead of staying in the hotel again, she testified through tears that she slept on the floor of a friend’s home.
Mann said Weinstein raped her again after she told him she was in a new relationship with an actor. “He was screaming, ‘You owe me. You owe me one more time,’ as he was dragging me into the bedroom,” she told the jury. Mann said she begged Weinstein to stop, but he violently tore off her pants, leaving scratch marks down her legs. Mann said she crawled into the fetal position on the bed and sobbed. She claimed Weinstein pulled her by her ankles and raped her.
“I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “He was so heavy on me.”
When the alleged attack was over, Mann said she crawled to the bathroom on her hands and knees. She had been crying so hard that her eyes were red and swollen, she said. Mann said Weinstein apologized, saying: “I just find you so attractive. I couldn’t resist.”
Pressed by a prosecutor to explain why she remained in a relationship with Weinstein, Mann said she was afraid of him. She said she kept in contact with Weinstein, writing him emails full of compliments and “a lot of flattery” so that she wouldn’t be perceived as a threat and wouldn’t “trigger his anger.”
“It was like Jekyll and Hyde,” Mann said. “He could be the most charming and informative person. He could lift you up to anyone he ever introduced you to and behind closed doors, it would be dependent upon if I gave him what he wanted.”
Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual contact, including dozens made by women whose accusations date too far back for him to be prosecuted.
In her cross-examination, Donna Rotunno, one of Weinstein’s lawyers, repeatedly accused Mann of lying, saying she manipulated and used Weinstein for his power and connections. “You were lying to him every single time you engaged in sexual activity that you did not want,” Rotunno said.
If convicted in New York, Weinstein could face life in prison. He also faces separate sexual assault charges in Los Angeles that could put him behind bars for 28 years.
Mann was the fifth witness to testify about alleged sexual misconduct by Weinstein.