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Jessica Mann got the chance to speak about being raped. She had to use it to defend herself.

The following deals with sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.

Your Honour,

The day my uncontrollable screams were heard from the witness room was the day my full voice came back into my power.

Those were the screams that wanted to come out while Harvey was raping me. Those were the screams of a terrified young woman reliving experiences of horrific violence against her body. Those were the screams that will forever haunt those who witnessed me.

These were the opening lines of Jessica Mann‘s victim impact statement at the sentencing of her rapist, Harvey Weinstein. Delivered in New York Criminal court on Wednesday, this was the once-aspiring actor’s opportunity to (at last) tell her full story, to share the ongoing pain caused by the 2013 rape.

She did that — powerfully, eloquently. But, like so many victims of sexual violence, she also was compelled to defend herself.

Watch: Salma Hayak was among the 90-plus women who levelled accusations against Weinstein.

Video by Channel 9

Harvey Weinstein was the one who’d been convicted, the one ultimately sentenced to 23 years over her rape and the 2006 sexual assault of former TV production assistant, Mimi Haleyi.

Yet Jessica still had to use his sentencing — the first meaningful and legitimate platform legally available to her — to justify the way she behaved that day. Why? Because our culture and justice systems still have a limited understanding of victim behaviour. And because she could.

In the United States, just 0.5 per cent of reported rapes end in a conviction. Here, Jessica Mann was standing on a platform very few ever reach.

And so, urging the judge to deliver a meaningful sentence, she asked that they consider what had previously gone unsaid: “I swore to come here and tell the whole truth, only to be limited by yes and no questions [during cross-examination], and premises framed by the defence that were grossly misrepresented.”

She presented the psychological theory of “tonic immobility” as evidence that freezing was a natural response to her assault.

She reiterated that she told her rapist “no’.

She explained that he didn’t use a weapon, but that his tactics of control and manipulation were enough to make her fearful.

She highlighted the power imbalance between them; his wealth, his means to legally silence accusers, to blacklist people and end careers.

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She described watching another of his accusers being “smeared, shamed and attacked” after coming forward, before the #metoo movement exposed the true extent and severity of his misconduct.

She spoke of a survival tactic known as “trauma bonding” to answer persistent queries about why she maintained contact with her rapist.

“Perhaps now it is easier to understand why showing distress after rape is a fantasy in relationships with power dynamics,” she told the judge. “How after my own body was completely dominated by him, my spirit and my emotions were the last thing I had left to control in my experience of existence as a human being under his influence.”

Listen: The women who brought down Harvey Weinstein – Hollywood’s ‘untouchable’ man.

The conviction of Weinstein was a beacon of #metoo-era justice, but the fact that Jessica — the victim, the survivor — had to say all this shows just how far we’ve still got to go. As a culture, we’re only just beginning to appreciate the complicated tangle of factors that exist before, during and beyond an act of sexual violence, and why it’s been such a stagnant issue until now.

“The truth about psychological defence mechanisms,” Jessica told the judge, “is something lawyers like the defence don’t want entered into evidence, so they can continue to capitalise on the broken. And predators like Harvey don’t want the public to be educated on so that they can exploit a victim’s shame to escape condemnation.”

Thankfully, a New York jury of 12 was able to see beyond that when they unanimously voted to convict Harvey Weinstein in February. But the 67-year-old himself is clearly still perplexed.

He used his pre-sentencing statement to declare that he thought he had genuine friendships with Jessica and Mimi.

“I really, really was maybe hypnotic and under that impression that I had that feeling, that I had that relationship,” he told the judge.

“I’m totally confused and I think men are confused about all of these issues.”

No, all men are not confused about “these issues” — largely thanks to the illuminating movements (#metoo, #timesup) his horrific crimes inspired. But sadly, some are.

Jessica Mann’s words, and those of other survivors, are some of the most critical tools we have to change that. As long as they’re given a platform.

In the meantime, Jessica has promised to dedicate herself to those women and to changing the conversation.

“Today I have no shame. I stand with gratitude and wholeness in my being. I stand here ready and willing and wanting to help others have the same wholeness and freedom that I now experience,” she concluded her statement. “I have found my voice and together we can have a future vision where monsters no longer hide in our closets.”

If this post brings up any issues for you, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. They are ready to listen 24 hours a day and, if need be, refer you to a service close to home.

Feature image: AAP and Getty.

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