A British victim of Harvey Weinstein has told how she vowed to speak up after a summit at Gwyneth Paltrow’s house.
Rowena Chiu, 45, was among a group of sex-abuse survivors who gathered at the star’s £8million LA mansion in January last year.
Speaking to the Sunday People she says: “I wasn’t famous like Gwyneth Paltrow or Ashley Judd, I was a stay-at-home-mum with four kids so it was surreal to go to Gwyneth’s house. I saw her a few times during the production of Shakespeare in Love.
“I hadn’t even spoken to my parents about what happened to me. It was a unique opportunity to be with other survivors.”
Oscar-winner Gwyneth, 47, who says she was sexually harassed by the mogul aged 22, broke down as she told the 12-strong group that her success was used to control other victims.
The actress told them: “He was pointing to my career and saying, ‘Don’t you want what she has?’
“This has been by far the hardest part of this, to feel like a tool in the coercion
Rowena – who was an assistant at Weinstein’s Londonoffice – broke her 20-year
silence after hearing the stories of other victims as they ate Japanese food.
She says she was abused in 1998, when, aged 24, she accompanied Weinstein to the Venice Film Festival as part of her £18,000-a-year job with his Miramax firm.
At their first meeting, Rowena says Weinstein stripped naked then demanded oral sex.
The next night, she claims he groped her before pinning her down on the bed and telling her: “It will soon be over.”
She later confided in fellow assistant Zelda Perkins and the pair quit.
But the movie producer’s legal team pressured them to sign non-disclosure agreements which banned them from talking about their experiences.
Rowena, who comes from Hertfordshire, says she felt guilty for staying silent – and when stories of Weinstein’s abuse first surfaced in 2017, she “wanted to just hide”.
She says: “All of us carry a burden when we think about people who went after us. For Gwyneth, it’s explicit – he used her name to get women to sleep with him.
“Anyone who worked for Harvey feels tarred. I think, ‘Was every woman I brought to a business meeting not there voluntarily?’”
The summit at Gwyneth’s home was organised by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey as research for She Said – the book published in September about how they broke the Weinstein scandal story.
They invited Christine Blasey-Ford, the psychology professor who accused US Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh of sex assault, and Rachel Crooks, who claimed she was forcibly kissed by US President Donald Trump .
Both men have strongly denied the allegations made against them.
Rowena was the only one who had not spoken publicly about her ordeal. She says her secret agony pushed her to the brink of suicide and she twice tried to take her own life.
But she drew strength from the other women that night and broke the non-disclosure agreement.
She says: “The person who had the biggest influence on me was Christine Blasey-Ford. So many women in America admire her. She was brave enough to do what she did and live the nightmare I was expecting to live.
“I thought my children would be followed and I’d have to go into
hiding. It was really inspiring to meet her and realise her family survived.”
Also present was Laura Madden, a single mum from Swansea who was the first to give an on-the-record interview about abuse she says she suffered from Weinstein.
Ex-Miramax worker Laura, 49, who had cancer when news of Weinstein’s abuse broke, said the disgraced
producer attacked her in a Dublin hotel in 1992.
On Monday, Weinstein, 67, was convicted in New York of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haley in 2006 and raping aspiring actress Jessica Mann in 2013.
He was cleared of the most serious count of predatory sexual assault but faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced on March 11.
He still faces charges in Los Angeles of assaulting two women in 2013.
Scotland Yard detectives are also probing claims of 16 attacks on 11 women dating from the early 80s.
Laura says: “It’s one thing to feel supported by the #MeToo movement but to have the justice system work
in favour of the victims is seismic.”
Rowena, who moved to Palo Alto, California, to rebuild her life, says Weinstein’s alleged abuse of her in Venice cannot be tried under Italian law because it happened too long ago.
Even her husband Andrew did not know her story until she was approached by the New York Times.
But Rowena says she is happy to help any inquiry, and adds: “I’ll do anything to help other victims of Harvey get justice.”
Weinstein has always denied the assaults on Rowena, and said he has no knowledge of Laura’s claims.
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