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Leonard Pitts: Justice comes for Harvey Weinstein

By Leonard Pitts

He said, she said.

Then Justice James Burke said: “Although this is a first conviction, it is not a first offense. There is evidence before me of other incidents of sexual assault involving a number of women, all of which are legitimate considerations for sentence.” And he gave 67-year-old movie producer Harvey Weinstein 23 years for raping one woman and forcing oral sex upon another.

He said, she said.

Weinstein said in last week’s sentencing hearing that he is “worried about this country.” He said there are “thousands of men and women who are losing due process” once accused of sex crimes. He said, “I think men are confused about these issues.” Of course, after the hearing, many of us were no longer listening to what he said. They were too busy celebrating the arrival of justice overdue.

Like actress Rose McGowan. She said: “Today is a powerful day and a huge step forward in our collective healing.”

Like “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi. She said: “Weinstein terrorized and attacked women for decades. Now he will sit in a prison cell where he belongs.”

Like Melissa Silverstein, founder of the advocacy group Women in Hollywood. She said: “This is a day many people never thought would arrive. And this is because the women stood up and said no more.”

He said, they said.

And can you blame them for cheering? After California rapist Brock Turner got only six months because the judge said a harsher sentence “would have a severe impact on him,” after a New Jersey judge said a 16-year-old accused rapist deserved leniency because he “comes from a good family,” we get this reminder that occasionally, there is still justice here.

That said, we shouldn’t have to celebrate. Justice should be something we simply expect. Sadly, it isn’t — especially when women are assaulted by men.

As Justice Burke alluded to, though Weinstein was convicted of only two crimes, he is alleged to have groped, harassed and assaulted at least 90 women. Apparently this was an open secret. Yet it was allowed to continue. You wish that was surprising, but it isn’t.

Rape is arguably the only violent crime we are more likely to sweep under the rug than penalize. Victims often fail to report it, police to investigate it, courts to punish it. Even the court of public opinion wants nothing to do with it. “He said, she said,” we sniff — as if to reduce an act of violation to the level of a fender bender.

So yes, let’s celebrate justice. But let us also note how long it took justice to get here, how much trauma, pain and humiliation were required to get anyone to pay more than cursory attention. Ninety women? That’s not he said, she said.

No, that’s he said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said … for over 40 years.

Until finally someone heard them. Until finally, justice comes.

Email Pitts at lpitts@miamiherald.com

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