The New York Times journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein story that brought the producer down say that Gwyneth Paltrow was the reason so many women felt safe to talk.
The actress, who won an Oscar for the Weinstein-produced “Shakespeare in Love,” spoke on the record to reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor when Weinstein still had a ton of power in Hollywood.
“I think that many people will be surprised to discover that when so many other actresses were reluctant to get on the phone and scared to tell the truth about what they had experienced at his hands, that Gwyneth was actually one of the first people to get on the phone and that she was determined to help this investigation,” Twohey said on the TODAY show on September 9.
Weinstein knew Paltrow had a secret to tell.
“I think Harvey Weinstein was extremely aware and extremely scared of what the implications would be if his biggest star actually ended up going on the record,” Twohey said.
The two further explain Paltrow's role in bringing down Weinstein in their new book, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement.
It took more than bravery for Paltrow to tell her story. According to Dr. Nicole Avena, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, when a victim explains a trauma, they are actually reliving the experience in their mind.
"Coming out about publicly about a tragic experience such as an assault can be frightening, as the person is forced to relive the experience again in telling about it, confront the person who committed the act, as well as face the potential disbelief or dismissal of the event by the attacker and others," she explains.
When you are the first person to talk, it takes an "extreme" level of confidence and bravery, Dr. Avena adds.
"When you are the first person in a group to come out about such as an event, it takes extremely levels of bravery and self-confidence, as you are opening yourself up to doubt and negative comments, without a support system of others who have experienced a similar situation," she says. "Mentally, it takes a lot of courage and steadfastness to do something like this. The stress and anxiety associated with disclosing an event such like this can be extreme, and this is one reason why victims often keep quiet, or why they are at higher risk for developing mental illness, including higher rates of suicide."
As humans we are more comfortable in groups, she explains, and to make a bold move to tell your story first helps others follow.
"Social psychology tells us that as humans we tend to be more comfortable in groups, both physically and psychologically," Dr. Avena says. "When someone comes out about an event such as this, they are deviating from the group and standing out. While some would view these people as heroic, it takes a lot of courage to be the person in the group who stands up and says something different than what we are all expecting to hear."
In May 2018, Paltrow had revealed that Weinstein allegedly sexually harassed her in a hotel room in 1995, asking for a massage. She had told the Times that she told Brad Pitt, her boyfriend at the time, what had happened. The actor confirmed her story to the publication. Weinstein has denied the allegation.
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