When a friend emailed Louise Godbold a copy of The New York Times’ first article alleging that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had for decades committed acts of sexual violence, she could hardly believe what she read.
What seemed incredible to Godbold were not the alleged specifics of what the newspaper reported back in October 2017: that ambitious young women were lured into meetings alone with someone who could help their careers, that Weinstein made bizarre requests for massages, that he physically tried to block them from escaping, that he later took steps to keep them silent.
No, it did not shock her that one of the most powerful men in Hollywood would be capable of such things. What did was a sudden realization: I’m not the only one.
All of that, Godbold claims, happened to her back in the early 1990s, when she was a young commercial producer.
A tour of Weinstein’s offices ended in an empty room, she says, where he cornered her and put her hand on his crotch. He later apologized through a mutual acquaintance for what he said was “a misunderstanding.” The producer invited her for another meeting a month later, this time in his hotel room. Godbold says she found him naked and he demanded a massage.
She got out of his room and tried to put it all behind her. Decades later, amid the initial round of accusations against Weinstein, she agonized over whether to say anything, and decided to relate some details of her own experience in a blog post.
“I figured that I was writing a footnote to the whole story,” she said. Instead, Godbold was bombarded with interview requests. So it was that she joined more than 80 women who stepped forward. Their voices — some of them famous, but most of them not — helped launch the #MeToo movement.
Now comes another turning point: Proceedings began on Monday for Weinstein’s trial in New York on charges of rape and sexual assault. Just hours after 67-year-old Weinstein shuffled into that courtroom hunched over a walker, the result of recent back surgery, prosecutors in Los Angeles charged him with four more counts of rape and sexual battery. That means there will be a second trial when this one is over.
All of this will be a test of the justice system and a signal of what others can expect if they call out sexual misconduct.
But for Godbold and the rest of the women who have accused the producer, the coming months also represent a trial of their own resilience. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and insists his actions were consensual. He and his lawyers portray Weinstein as the true victim.
“I feel like the forgotten man,” Weinstein whined during an interview last month with the New York Post. “I made more movies directed by women and about women than any filmmaker, and I’m talking about 30 years ago. I’m not talking about now when it’s vogue, I did it first. I pioneered it.”
Godbold’s encounters with Weinstein added to her disillusionment with the film industry. When someone invited her to help out at a homeless mission in downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row, she found a satisfaction she had not known before. “After the ephemera of the entertainment world, it felt so good to actually be needed and to actually do some good,” she told me.
Ultimately, she grew fascinated with the burgeoning scientific research around trauma, what it does to a victim’s brain and what people must do to reclaim their lives in the wake of shattering events. When the allegations against Weinstein came out, Godbold was working as the executive director of Echo, a nonprofit organization that runs education programs for trauma victims, conferences for professionals who treat them and services such as nonviolent parenting classes.
So it was more than a little ironic, she realized, that she had never come to terms with her own trauma. Godbold, now 57, had blamed herself for what happened. She thought Weinstein’s alleged behavior was perhaps an aberration on his part, a misread of signals that she didn’t know she was sending.
On Monday, she was one of the self-proclaimed “silence breakers” who gathered outside the Manhattan courthouse where his trial will take place. “The truth will prevail. And whether it is this trial or in the future, Harvey will be held accountable for his actions,” declared actress Rosanna Arquette, one of the more recognizable among them.
But if that happens, it will not be because of a few famous names. It will be because of the sheer number of accusers he faces. The women who discovered they weren’t the only ones.
When Godbold’s turn came, she stepped to the microphone and said: “My name is Louise Godbold, and you’re probably saying — who? Because I’m just a little person.” As she and the others are showing us, even small voices can make a mighty noise, once they find each other and join together.