What Life for One Weinstein Accuser Is Like After She Went Public

When Louisette Geiss accused Harvey Weinstein of trying to force her to watch him masturbate in 2008, she knew her life after wouldn't be same, but couldn't have predicted exactly what was to come.

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Nov 30 2018, 4:18pm

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

More than a year after the New York Times first published its bombshell report on Harvey Weinstein, dozens of women have come forward to share strikingly similar stories of his alleged sexual abuse. Over the span of three decades, according to multiple accounts, Weinstein often invited unsuspecting women to private hotel rooms and offices on the pretense of chatting about work, thus getting them alone and subsequently vulnerable. A lengthy investigation from the New Yorker also found evidence that he used secret settlements and private investigators to silence his victims and suppress their allegations from going public.

But when Louisette Geiss came forward with her own story in October 2017 about being harassed by Weinstein, she wasn’t aware of any of these other allegations. She knew what had happened to her, and she wanted to corroborate the claims of the handful of women who had gone public by then.

In 2008, Geiss, then an actress and screenwriter, says she took a meeting with Weinstein while they were both at the Sundance Film Festival. She hoped he would produce a script she’d written. A dinner meeting continued to his hotel room at his request, and eventually Weinstein excused himself and returned wearing nothing but an open robe. He promised to help her career if she watched him masturbate in the hot tub.

On October 10, 2017—just a few days after that first Times report—Geiss sat in a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred in Los Angeles and talked about that day. It was her #MeToo story. “When I finished my pitch,” she told the room of reporters, “I was obviously nervous, and he kept asking me to watch him masturbate. I told him I was leaving."

Geiss says the decision to speak out last year had a lot to do with Weinstein’s “arrogance and dismissal” after the Times and New Yorker stories came out. He not only threatened to sue the Times, Geiss recalls, but “he also said that it was such a good story he wanted to buy the movie rights. That comment really cut me to the bone because it felt so disrespectful.”

Despite her resolve, Geiss says sharing her story that October day was “extremely nerve-wracking.” She was afraid of public backlash. She wasn’t sure how her employers would handle the situation. And, most of all, she was afraid that Weinstein would ultimately sue her and take all her property and assets. “I was in a position where I could lose everything for coming forward,” she says.

“I was in a position where I could lose everything for coming forward."

Today, more than a year after she shared how Weinstein’s alleged behavior made her leave the entertainment industry, Geiss continues to champion the need for change in the workplace. In addition to public engagements and talking one-on-one with influencers in her own field (she now works in real estate), Geiss is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed last December against Weinstein, his brother Bob Weinstein, their company The Weinstein Company, Miramax, and several other individuals. (Weinstein, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, faces several civil suits in addition to criminal charges, and has tried to get Geiss’ class-action suit dismissed.)

According to the complaint, Geiss and the other plaintiffs who will serve as proxy for a class of victims allege that Weinstein’s sexual advances “caused injury to their business prospects, career, reputation, and severe emotional and physical distress.”

In September, the judge presiding over their case, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, instructed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to strengthen their arguments. They did, adding a new, unnamed victim who said her experiences of harassment and assault—including an incident of allegedly being forced to massage Weinstein’s penis—began in 2002 when she was 16 years old.

Geiss—who was also appointed to a committee charged with keeping an eye on the Weinstein Company’s bankruptcy case in order to ensure victims’ claims are addressed throughout the case—says their goal is to address not only perpetrators like Weinstein, but also the people who support them despite knowing about their sexual misconduct.

“That’s going to make a lot more people think differently and change,” Geiss says. “Harvey was the nucleus of the evil, if you will, but all these things rotating around him—nothing changed him. He just kept doing it for 30 years.”

She admits, however, that being on the frontline to hold Weinstein and others accountable has been challenging. Even listening to Judge Hellerstein’s comments in their September hearing was difficult. According to Courthouse News Service, Hellerstein commented that the producer “wasn’t attractive in such a way that, say, Paul Newman was attractive. He wanted sex.”

“It’s a very emotional topic, obviously, for me,” Geiss says. “To give it all up was not an easy choice. I did make my living as creative person. To reinvent myself was also very difficult. To be reminded of it a lot, and now reminded of my experience publicly, is not easy at all.”

In many ways, Geiss, who has a full-time job and four kids, has also become something of a beacon, regularly drawing both men and women who want to share with her their own experiences of dealing with harassment—and, occasionally, unwanted opinions.
At a recent real estate industry conference she attended as a featured speaker, a man she didn’t know struck up a conversation with her about Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearing. He questioned Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, which she found upsetting: Geiss says she understands what it feels like to come forward with a deeply personal allegation only to have people question its truthfulness.

“I do everything I can, though, to keep it together,” she adds, “because I do feel like continually teaching and changing our script and how we live our lives moving forward is an important thing. If I get upset or anything, they’re not going to hear you.”

That’s not to say she’s not impacted by those negative experiences. That night, after speaking with the Kavanaugh supporter, Geiss says she woke up at 2 AM thinking about what the man had said. Her heart was racing.


“My gut tells me I did do the right thing, but it’s still hard to deal with.”

Most of her interactions with people, though, are positive, such as the man who approached her after a talk she gave at the same conference about creating a new normal where workplace sexual abuse is no longer an issue. Geiss says he told her, “I don’t have even kids, and I don’t care who has kids, we’ve got to make a change.”

Those kinds of conversations take place outside of prominent speaking engagements as well. For example, she says, a woman from a networking group she started reached out to her recently wanting to talk about an incident a family member had dealt with. It’s hard to hear these stories, Geiss says, but “I honor the fact that people trust me.”

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“Women shouldn’t be treated this way no matter where the hell you go,” Geiss continues. “[But] to sacrifice yourself to do that is very challenging. I’m always grappling with: did I do the right thing by my family? I’m constantly worried that in helping a lot of other people, that I’m affecting my two girls.” (Her two youngest children are one and two years old.)

“My gut tells me I did do the right thing, but it’s still hard to deal with.”