WE no longer have to say that Harvey Weinstein is an alleged rapist. On Monday, the jurors in Weinstein’s crim-inal trial found the former producer guilty of third-degree rape and a criminal sex act.

Although acquitted on the most serious charges of first-degree rape and predatory sexual assault, Weinstein could still face a prison term of more than 25 years.

Speaking outside court, Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance Jnr said the female prosecutorial team and the women who testified against Weinstein “changed the course of history in the fight against sexual violence”.

In some ways, it’s hard to argue with this. Despite the weight of public allegations against Weinstein, the criminal case in New York was never going to be straightforward. That case involved charges relating to just two women, although testimony from four other women was heard as part of the prosecution’s case relating to predatory sexual assault charges, on which Weinstein was ultimately acquitted.

During the trial, the defence was quick to exploit the fact that the two women at the centre of the case had continued to have apparently friendly contact with Weinstein after he sexually assaulted them. Weinstein’s lead attorney, Donna Rotunno, sought to reappropriate feminist arguments about choice and consent to lay the blame for the assaults on the women themselves. For Rotunno, their “choices” existed in a universe where Weinstein’s power, money, influence and physical might were irrelevant.

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For decades, Weinstein was protected by a wider cultural context in which sexual harassment was normalised, glamorised and trivialised. In the sexualised world of Hollywood, that women got ahead by “sleeping” their way to the top was a dangerous cliché, disguising the gendered power imbalance, coercion and abuse on which the industry thrived.

That, despite this, the jury still convicted Weinstein sends a powerful signal. It suggests that time might really be up for men who abuse power and that understandings of rape and sexual assault might be beginning to shift. It recognises that there is no “perfect” victim and most rapes and sexual assaults are committed by men known to victim/survivors.

In Cy Vance’s words, the case “pulled our justice system into the 21st century by declaring that rape is rape and sexual assault is sexual assault, no matter what.”

Indeed, that Weinstein made it to court at all is fairly remarkable. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, for every 1000 rapes in the US, less than a quarter are reported to police, only 46 of these lead to arrest and just nine to prosecution. Only five in 1000 rapes result in a custodial sentence. Or, to put it another way: 995 times out of 1000, the accused walks free.

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The picture in Scotland is relatively similar. When rape and attempted rape cases make it to court, the most recent figures show a conviction rate of 43%. But, of the 2255 rape and attempted rape cases reported to police in 2017-18, only 247 cases ever made it that far. Of course, most cases are never reported to the police.

If the Weinstein case does represent a shift in understanding rape and sexual assault, then it is long overdue.

However, it’s difficult not to think that we’ve been here before. In the UK, the Jimmy Savile case was supposed to initiate just such a change. Despite what these high-profile cases might suggest, change is more incremental than seismic.

Yes, Weinstein and Savile are now almost universally recognised as sexual predators. However, they are also typically portrayed as physically and morally repulsive monsters. Thinking of sexual predators in this way isn’t helpful.

First, it perpetuates a myth that men who rape and sexually assault women, men or children are a breed apart from other men, immediately recognisable at a glance. That this can easily tip over into victim-blaming is something I’ve seen in my research on media coverage of both cases. There is an implicit – sometimes explicit – assumption that victims could have, should have, known just by looking.

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Second, thinking of perpetrators as isolated monsters ignores the extent to which their behaviour was enabled by others. In both the Weinstein and Savile cases, it is impossible to understand how they got away with it for so long without examining the broader cultures of sexism in the entertainment industries.

It is more comforting to think of a perpetrator as an individual bad apple as it means their conviction is the end of the story. But if the #MeToo era has taught us anything, it is that there is still so much more work to be done to challenge and change the attitudes, workplace cultures and laws which protect men like Weinstein or Savile.

If you’ve been following the coverage of the Weinstein case, you could be forgiven for thinking that that work – the work to end sexual assault – began in October 2017, when Alyssa Milano’s #MeToo tweet went viral. Whilst the scale and scope of #MeToo may have been unprecedented, the women using #MeToo – first in Hollywood and then globally – are part of a much longer tradition of both speaking out and activism. I’ve been frustrated by how unevenly that has been acknowledged in media discussions of #MeToo.

The Me Too movement (distinct from the hashtag) was founded by an African American survivor and activist, Tarana Burke, in 2006. Burke has had an increasingly public profile as a result of the hashtag, but whilst the media reports have acknowledged her as the founder of the movement, her ongoing activism has been less visible. As Burke commented back in 2018, it is “like I just discovered something 12 years ago and in 2017 it suddenly gained value”.

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This tells us something about which victims and survivors are most likely to be the focus of media attention. There is no doubt that the phenomenal media engagement with #MeToo has been driven, at least in part, by the presence of celebrity white women. More than that, it is suggestive of the media’s emphasis on personal stories of victimisation and survival, marginalising the messier work of activism, support and advocacy. It is also worryingly ahistorical.

Here in Scotland, the rape crisis movement predates #MeToo by 40 years. The first Scottish rape crisis group was set up in Glasgow in 1976 and Scotland is increasingly seen internationally as a leader in this field. The women who have done, and continue to do, this work have a huge amount of expertise, which we need as a society if we are to understand and end sexual violence.

Today, there are 17 rape crisis groups in Scotland, covering the country from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway. Yet the life-saving work of the rape crisis movement is seriously underfunded. Figures published at the end of 2019 showed that on a typical day in Scotland, 1035 survivors of sexual violence were on waiting lists to access their services.

High-profile cases such as the Weinstein trial increase the pressure on these vital services. That media coverage of these sexual assault cases can enable survivors to seek support – sometimes for the first time – is a reminder of the positive and powerful role responsible reporting can play in challenging sexual violence.

This brings me back to the incredible survivors who have spoken out about Weinstein and so many other powerful men. It is not, and should not, be the responsibility of victims and survivors to end sexual violence. They did not cause the problem and they do not owe us their stories, though when they choose to tell them we must listen.

The responsibility for ending sexual violence lies with those who choose to commit the violent acts. As these high-profile cases powerfully remind us, however, for men to be held accountable for their actions requires a sea change in the way we think about gender and power. That process must involve us all.