Harvey Weinstein’s Lawyer Donna Rotunno Says She’s Never Been Sexually Assaulted ‘Because I Would Never Put Myself In That Position’

Rotunno’s comments in a new interview have led to accusations of 'victim-blaming.'

Donna Rotunno, one of Harvey Weinstein's defense attorneys, departs from the court from her client's Weinstein his sexual assault trial at Manhattan criminal court on January 28, 2020 in New York City.

by Esther Newman |
Updated on

Donna Rotunno is already a controversial figure. She’s a private criminal defence attorney who specialises in cases involving men accused of sexual assault. According to Chicago Magazine, she has handled over 40 sexual misconduct cases in the last 15 years.

This year she has found herself in the international spotlight as lead defence attorney in Harvey Weinstein's rape and sexual assault trial. Described as the ‘Harvey whisperer’, she was brought in to defend Weinstein eight months ago after the Hollywood mogul was reportedly advised that it was important to hire a female lawyer.

Now Rotunno has ignited further furore and come under serious criticism for making ‘ignorant’ comments about sexual assault in an interview.

Interviewed in an episode of The Daily, a news podcast produced by The New York Times, on Friday February 7, Rotunno was asked by host and journalist Megan Twohey – one of the reporters who first reported on the allegations against Weinstein in 2017 – whether she had ever been sexually assaulted herself.

‘I have not,’ Rotunno answered, before adding: ‘because I would never put myself in that position.’

Audibly shocked by her response, Twohey pressed her for a follow up: ‘So you’re saying that you have never been sexually assaulted because you would never put yourself in the position of being sexually assaulted?’

‘I’ve always made choices, from college age on, where I never drank too much,’ Rotunno explained. ‘I never went home with someone that I didn’t know. I just never put myself in any vulnerable circumstances, ever.’

Pressed again by Twohey, to clarify if she was saying that all survivors of sexual assault and rape are to blame for what happened to them, Rotunno issued a quick denial. ‘Absolutely not,’ she said. ‘All I’m saying is that women should take precautions.’

‘If you go out on a date with someone… and you make a choice to go into their home at the end of the night, what do you think could potentially happen?’ she said. ‘If you’re not prepared for what could potentially happen, I think we’re kidding ourselves. And then to leave, and say, "I had no idea that this person would maybe try to be sexual with me"… I think is naive.’

Rotunno’s comments were met with a swift and outraged response, and criticised as ‘victim-blaming’.

Sarah Ann Masse, one of the women who has come forward against Weinstein, told The Independent: ‘The woman represents a serial sexual predator in court – nothing she says should be a surprise to anyone, and yet it is. The media needs to stop giving her a platform to spread her vile, outdated, lazy, victim-blaming tactics.’

On social media, the comments below Twohey’s tweet sharing the interview were flooded with women sharing their own stories of sexual assault.


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