Mellisa Thompson isn’t doing anything wrong but Weinstein’s behaviour has red flags – please use them to upskill other vulnerable workers.
Let’s look at the red flags
Weinstein has met Melissa once before but this is their first formal meeting. Melissa is expecting a meeting with Weinstein AND his marketing team; Weinstein arrives alone and locks the door (1). As he locks the door, he says loudly, “Don’t interrupt” – probably for Melissa’s ‘benefit’ so that she will think his locking the door is legitimate. A target of this should use any excuse to have that door unlocked – “I promised my Dad I would never be in a locked room with a man who has huge power over me – you must concede, Mr. Weinstein, how powerful you are.” (Yes even flatter him if you have to, just get the door to your escape route open. Also this in itself sets down a strong boundary.)
MT goes for a handshake – Harvey knocks her hand away and hugs her instead – rubbing her back. (2) A target may have to get physical here, acting shocked and pulling away.
HW: That’s nice; let’s keep it up…. Am I allowed to flirt with you? (3) This is where the manipulation starts in earnest – potentially he’ll be able to say “I asked you if I could flirt with you” – so trying to transfer the blame if she complies
MT: Hmm, we’ll see, a little bit
HW: A little bit, not much, right? Then all right, I won’t. So what you’d want? (4) So here, Weinstein manipulates Melissa, putting her on the backfoot by implying that he may not do business with her if she keeps that boundary up. The way that he says, “So what you’d want?” is colder than anything he has said before to her
(Melissa trying to ‘save’ the meeting)
MT: No…it’s okay – Weinstein knows precisely what he is doing, and here he has manipulated Melissa into conceding that he can ‘flirt’ with her.
Melissa talks about the pitch. Harvey tries to normalize what he is doing and what Melissa might get if she complies.
Weinstein appears to be touching Melissa under the table (5). Melissa says his hand kept moving up her dress. This is physical, sexual assault that must be evaded physically if necessary, starting with a very assertive ‘No’ and then escalating as necessary.
HW: You just tell me what I can do and when it’s going to happen (6). There is only one answer to this – “We are going to focus on the pitch.”
Harvey leans in closer (7) a target should aim to create distance between them by whatever means – sitting opposite rather than by his side is always a good idea.
HW: It’s fun when we do this, but I’m actually, seriously having a conversation with you (8) I’m more likely to take you seriously if you allow me to grope you – when in reality precisely the opposite is true – repeat (6)
MT: Okay, good, we can do both. He’s getting verbal compliance and so potentially transferring the blame. This is a repeated pattern to 3 & 4 manipulating her to concede – as much in her own mind as anywhere else. He is trying to establish that she concedes to his control of what will happen – a prelude to rape.
Melissa demonstrates the app. Harvey underlining the power he has
HW: Wow… Okay, I’m going to use your service, and then you know you can sign me up, tell your boss (9) Promises, promises – I’ll bet he didn’t use her app. Interestingly, he thinks she has a boss. I believe the app is hers? He is pulling the biggest trigger he has here – Miramax will use her app!
Melissa jocularly pushes Weinstein, trying to regain control but in a celebratory mode
MT: Data’s hot
HW: It is hot. You’re hot…Let me have a little bit of you, give it to me. It’s okay. Would you like me to do it some more? (10). Sexual assault in progress! One for which he tries repeatedly to get her consent. It’s not a huge leap to his saying “You’re loving this.”
MT: A little bit. Uhuh, that a little high, that’s a little high
Melissa goes back to explaining the app. Weinstein is more interested in rubbing Melissa’s back, sizing her up (11). This is when targets shut down, ignore what is happening to them, and try just to get through the meeting.
Melissa tells the interviewer (Sky’s Hannah Thomas-Peter) what she was thinking at the time,
“What do I do? How did I get myself here?” Self-reproach that isn’t appropriate – there is only one driver in this, and it’s Weinstein.
Weinstein goes to the kitchen to get water; Melissa follows him turning her computer towards the kitchen as she goes, explaining to Sky’s Hannah Thomas-Peter that she does this because she is now afraid of Weinstein.
HW: I’ve got to go edit a movie – emphasizing his importance again, but I’ll meet you somewhere. Meet you for a drink.
MT: What time?
HW: It’s 3.34; I’ll meet you at 5.30 at TriBeCa Grand?
Melissa thinks that the meeting is to close the deal.
She goes alone (12). A target should take the imaginary boss (a male friend) with her to the hotel, which she says feels safer than being alone with him in his office. Weinstein arrives, telling Melissa to follow him; she thinks it’s to a conference room, it isn’t; it’s to his bedroom, where she says he raped her. Weinstein’s hotel room was a suite of rooms that was his usual place of business.
Melissa Thompson did nothing wrong – she acted the same way hundreds of young women reacted when cornered by the master manipulator that was Weinstein. I think I wasn’t ever successfully sexually harassed because by chance I had to put up a boundary in school when a gang tried to get me to strip. I said the single most important word in anti-harassment/bullying I said “NO,” and fled. What this meant was, as an adult, if anyone tried to sexually harass me, my response was automatically politely aggressive. That boundary served me well; I want you to have established such a boundary and practiced your responses in front of a mirror – as firefighters say, “We drill for skill so that we don’t regress under stress” and if you are dealing with a sexual harasser you will be stressed.
I want as many people as possible to know what they will do in the above circumstances so their reactions are automatic, appropriate, and effective. Please forward this to anyone who might benefit from it. We can save so much grief if we learn from these extraordinary women.