Weinstein conviction a 'flood of relief' for woman who interviewed at Westport home

WESTPORT — The weight Sarah Anne Masse has been carrying for more than a decade received a bit of relief last week when Harvey Weinstein was convicted of sexual assault and rape.

Masse is among more than 100 women who came forward with accusations against the movie mogul in recent years. The California actress accused Weinstein of sexually assaulting her when she went to his Westport home for an interview to be a nanny for his children in 2008.

Masse is part of a federal lawsuit against Weinstein that is still pending. However, a jury convicting Weinstein last week of first-degree sexual assault and third-degree rape in cases involving other women provided Masse with a sense of relief.

“It was just this flood of relief. ... I’ve been walking around with this for 12 years,” Masse told Hearst Connecticut Media on Friday. “I really felt like he would never ever be found guilty.”

In her federal lawsuit filed in 2017, Masse said she went to Weinstein’s Beachside Avenue in Westport for an interview in 2008. Masse claims Weinstein came to the door dressed in boxer shorts and an undershirt.

According to the lawsuit, Weinstein conducted the interview in his underwear and then grabbed Masse and pulled her tight against his body when the meeting was completed.

“It was an extremely devastating day,” Masse recalled. “It changed the course of my life. It changed the way I exist in the world. It changed my sense of safety.”

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, attorneys for Weinstein Co. filed a motion to dismiss Masse’s federal class-action lawsuit.

“Virtually all of the alleged conduct ... was committed by H. Weinstein, acting alone, between 10 and 25 years ago,” the attorneys wrote in legal documents filed in New York.

According to a report by Deadline, Weinstein failed in his attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed. However, his long-term business partner, Bob Weinstein, was released from the case.

When other women began making accusations in 2017, Masse realized she was not alone and came forward about her own experience.

“I had read the articles and it was the first time I realized that I wasn’t the only one this happened to,” she said. “The whole time I was walking around thinking, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ It never occurred to me he did this to other people.”

Masse said she was terrified during the time leading up to her story first being published, but she felt relieved to finally share her experience.

“The fact other women used their voices and were brave, gave me the strength to also be brave,” she said, though she faced challenges after speaking out.

Masse said she started feeling safe again when she met the man who eventually became her husband. She began taking her husband to interviews, but two months after telling her story, Masse said job offers stopped.

“There’s a huge amount of retaliation that happens to whistle-blowers and silence-breakers,” Masse said. “I can speak for my personal experience in the entertainment industry. I went two years without an audition.”

Masse has since continued to advocate through her own film-making and art. She has written her first two feature films and has seen recent success with her short film “Tristan & Kelly.” Masse has also launched the #HireSurvivorsHollywood hashtag on social media to shed light on retaliation victims have faced.

Years after her alleged encounter with Weinstein, Masse said she attended the first day of his trial. She later recounted her experience in an article on The Independent.

“I wanted to let the women who were testifying know that I supported them,” Masse said of her decision to witness the trial. “I wanted to stand in strength and solidarity with my fellow survivors and silence-breakers, and I wanted to symbolically show Harvey that he doesn’t get to win. He doesn’t get to have power over us. He doesn’t get to scare us anymore.”

She added his recent conviction could be significant for survivors everywhere, and hopes it will have an impact on a legal system that she believes has not historically protected victims.

“I think it is exceptionally important and I hope what it will do is tell survivors they will be believed, and tell the legal system and lawyers that victims ought to be believed,” Masse said.