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Ashley Judd says the #MeToo movement isn't going anywhere

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction in New York has been overturned. The state's Court of Appeals, in a 4-3 vote, has ordered a new trial for the 72-year-old former Hollywood mogul, setting off a wave of critical reactions from survivors, lawyers and activists. One of those voices is Ashley Judd. She was the first woman to come forward on the record with allegations against Harvey Weinstein. The series of reports that resulted propelled the #MeToo movement. Ashley Judd joins us now. Welcome.

ASHLEY JUDD: Thank you.

CHANG: So what went through your mind when you first learned the conviction got overturned?

JUDD: What went through my mind, Ailsa, is that male sexual violence is a thief. It is disruptive. It is intrusive. First, it steals our sexual autonomy. They harass and rape us. And then, while I'm happily planning our summer vacation to Yellowstone National Park, waiting to get our camping permits, trying to prepare my speech for the U.N. General Assembly, which I'm speaking on Monday about population and development, I get this news that a slim majority has overturned his conviction. And I have to respond yet again to Harvey Weinstein's serial sexual predation.

CHANG: Can I ask you about the ruling, though? Because this court - this is New York's highest court - they said that Weinstein did not get a fair trial because the judge allowed testimony that didn't form the basis of the specific charges at issue. This is testimony from multiple women. And that is why this case was considered fragile all along. You know, there's a fundamental rule in criminal trials that defendants are to be judged on the acts that they are actually charged with. So really, how surprising was this outcome?

JUDD: Well, I'd like to point out that the minority opinion burns like hot coals. I mean, their dissent flies like steam off the page. And the Molineux witnesses, which is what the women who came in to establish the pattern...

CHANG: A pattern of predatory behavior.

JUDD: Right - did an incredible job establishing that they, too, had been victimized by his predatory behavior. And I understand the majority wanted to apply a more regressive standard. And this is an example of institutional betrayal. And so many survivors of male sexual violence end up describing this moral injury as having been worse than the original violation of their bodies.

CHANG: What does this ruling do more broadly to the #MeToo movement, if we can go there? Because so much of #MeToo was about people breaking their silence to share stories - right? - and discovering while they were sharing that they experienced common pain at the hands of certain individuals. That collectivity gave them a voice. And now we have the highest court in New York basically saying too many voices can be impermissible. So what are the implications of that for the #MeToo movement?

JUDD: Yeah. And I think it's important that we talk about this because this is a moment, and #MeToo is a movement. When the hashtag went viral, there were 850,000 women on Twitter in 12 hours and 12 million on Facebook in 24 hours. We are legion. You know, the most dangerous place in America for a woman is in her home. And more women have PTSD than veterans as a result of male sexual violence. And as Tarana Burke said yesterday, the bad news is that there are so many survivors of male sexual violence and that's also the good news.

CHANG: Tarana Burke, the founder of MeToo.

JUDD: And, you know, people can visit MeToo. They can call the Rape and Incest Hotline. We will tell our stories because those are acts of leadership that spark others to collective action for good purpose. And the #MeToo movement is not going away until men change their patterns of masculinity and stop raping us.

CHANG: That said, how does that - what you've just described as the #MeToo movement - how does that impact criminal proceedings? I mean, the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, says he does intend to retry this case. But if the message from New York's highest court is just keep the case simple, basically stick only to the testimony that directly relates to the charges, do you and others who came forward during the first trial think that you should back off now and stay out of the second trial?

JUDD: You know, Ailsa, I walked shoulder-to-shoulder with women with bloody knees. And if my sisters in New York, who are eligible to prosecute Harvey Weinstein, choose to do so again, you know, at great emotional cost, I will absolutely be with them. And, you know, being - a courtroom is a hostile environment for a survivor. It is not a healing space. You know, they are asked to perform their trauma. Judges and juries don't necessarily understand that stranger rape is largely minimal. We know the men who rape us. And it's a very tall ask to ask them to come forward again. And I support everyone's individual decision, whatever she may choose.

CHANG: As much as this moment right now has been described as a setback, what would you like to say to people who are feeling that way about how to move forward?

JUDD: I think all of our emotions are valid and appropriate. And I have learned that emotions are energy in motion. And it's important that I feel the full range of my humanity. And anger that is processed becomes strength and motivation. And so when I travel that journey from my rage to my strength and motivation, I feel that male entitlement to female bodies is the up with which I will no longer put. And I find that hill on which I am willing to die.

CHANG: Actor and activist Ashley Judd. Thank you so much for speaking with us again.

JUDD: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lauren Hodges
Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.
Ashley Brown
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.
Ailsa Chang
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.