Roger Ailes. Bill Cosby. Harvey Weinstein. It took a near avalanche of stories, accusations, audio recordings and emotional scars to bring these men’s wrongdoings into the light.
Numerous victims stepped forward with allegations years before the recent mainstream media tailspins. These victims reported what happened to them, despite fear of retribution and other consequences. Yet far too many of their stories fell onto deaf ears.
Take Weinstein accuser Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a Filipina-Italian model, who recounted to Ronan Farrow in a New Yorker report on Weinstein an event that happened in the film executive’s office in 2015.
Guterriez arrived at Weinstein’s office in Tribeca early the next evening with her modelling portfolio. In the office, she sat with Weinstein on a couch to review the portfolio, and he began staring at her breasts, asking if they were real. Gutierrez later told officers of the New York Police Department Special Victims Division that Weinstein then lunged at her, groping her breasts and attempting to put a hand up her skirt while she protested. He finally backed off and told her that his assistant would give her tickets to “Finding Neverland,” a Broadway play that he was producing. He said that he would meet her at the show that evening.
That night led Gutierrez to file a report with the New York Police Department, amounting to a subsequent sting operation, for which she wore a wire in an “attempt to extract a confession or incriminating statement” from Weinstein.
That wire yielded horrifying audio, which was also featured in The New Yorker piece. (You can listen to it in full below.)
“You must come here now,” Weinstein insists, as he pleads with her to come with him to his room, noting that he’s “a famous guy” who is “used to” touching women’s breasts.
The sting operation audio feels eerily similar to the infamous 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, released one year ago, that failed to derail Donald Trump’s presidential run. In Weinstein’s case, his words “caught on tape” also failed to derail his career in Hollywood.
In fact, following the release of the Weinstein audio, it was Gutierrez’s reputation that suffered, not Weinstein’s. As media outlets began picking up her story, some portrayals of the model helped to cast doubt on her allegations against Weinstein.
For example, The New York Post published a slew of stories supplemented by anonymous sources that painted her as a desperate model, willing to go to extremes for fame:
The Daily Beast reported on Gutierrez’s prior legal battle with a mysterious man named “Mr. G” and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, writing: “A young Italian model finds herself the victim of alleged sexual abuse by a powerful older man ― for the third time.”
The Daily Mail published a piece depicting Gutierrez as being “‘forced against [her] will’ into having sex with the ‘businessman of substantial means’ for money when she was under 18.”
Gawker reported that Gutierrez attended one of Berlusconi’s orgies and alleged that she was “groped by the former PM and encouraged to undress.”
When Gutierrez made her initial complaints about Weinstein, there were very few pieces in the media that rallied to her defense.
The Daily Beast, in addition to the aforementioned coverage, was one of the few outlets to offer a more nuanced take on Gutierrez’s situation. “Naïve Innocent, Gold-Digger, or Neither?” a headline asked, with the accompanying piece later noting that “the reality is likely more human and complex.”
That article describes The New York Post’s salacious coverage of Gutierrez as painting her as “the image of the perfect she-devil.”
“The young, beautiful, wide-eyed woman who falls prey to Hollywood’s lusty male elite is a tale we know all too well ― and Battilana’s camp knows that, too...,” the article reads. “Her claims against Weinstein can’t be accepted as legitimate unless she is seen as either naïve and doe-eyed at one extreme, or aggressive and grasping at the other. It serves not only the media, but both Battilana’s and Weinstein’s camps to portray her as either Gone Girl or Snow White.”
Years later, the Madonna-whore complex is alive and well. Her story has been squeezed in alongside dozens of other allegations, mostly overshadowed by the stories of A-listers with whom Weinstein also behaved inappropriately.
If only she’d been believed the first time she told her story.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.