For more than two decades, the secret of Rowena Chiu has been known to only a handful of people. It was so destructive that she tried to take her own life twice, but she never trusted her husband, her parents, and certainly not her four young children.
For her friends and neighbors, the 45-year-old was no different than any other mother who stayed home.
But all that changed four months ago when Rowena revealed that she was one of the victims of Harvey Weinstein; he had tried to rape her when she was a 24-year-old assistant working at his London office.
The reason for her silence? A confidentiality agreement (NDA) that put them under pressure to sign after the attack – which Weinstein has always denied – whose conditions were so restrictive that she could not tell anyone; no relatives, no doctors, no counselors for the rest of her life.
The only positive – Rowena thought – was that the NDA agreement would prevent the film magnate from attacking other women.
Four months ago when Rowena Chiu revealed that she was one of the victims of Harvey Weinstein; he had tried to rape her when she was a 24-year-old assistant working at his London office
She and fellow assistant Zelda Perkins, who trusted Rowena after the attack, signed the NDA after they entered into a restrained financial agreement with Weinstein after they resigned.
Realizing that it was unlikely that they would get justice through the legal process, they insisted on clauses designed to protect others. This legally required Weinstein to attend sex therapy for a year, never to be alone with an assistant and, if a similar arrangement were ever to be made, he would tell his employers or resign.
But since the 67-year-old Hollywood producer was convicted yesterday for rape and committing a criminal sexual act – and the list of alleged victims pushes three figures – it is clear that his side of the agreement was not being respected.
“We thought we had him and we had helped other women. We thought we had a certain degree of justice, “Rowena told the Daily Mail.
Although born and raised in the UK, she now lives with her husband – a product manager for Facebook – and their four children, daughters aged ten and eight and boys aged five and two, in Silicon Valley, California.
‘He [Weinstein] did not reform in any way – he just continued to violate women for two decades, “she added. “We gave up our lives, our career in film, and suffered decades of trauma in silence, so that these restrictions could be imposed on him, and he didn’t even stick to it.
“It felt like our sacrifice was for nothing, absolutely nothing. If Miramax had adhered to those clauses, we might have saved hundreds of women.
Rowena and fellow assistant Zelda Perkins, pictured with Weinstein in 1998, signed an NDA after concluding a restrained financial agreement with Weinstein after they resigned
“They promised us that they would impose restrictions on him, so he wasn’t free to rape and plunder, and that’s the only reason why we took that money. But he raped and plundered. “
As an English literature student, Rowena was president of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. When she got a job in the summer of 1998 as an assistant to Hollywood “god” and Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein, it seemed that her dreams had come true. She loved earning £ 18,000 a year by working with Zelda Perkins, a senior assistant in her 20s.
“I was completely excited,” Rowena remembers. “Harvey Weinstein was considered the most powerful man in Hollywood.”
There were, however, a few ‘catches’. Zelda warned Rowena that Weinstein could be “hard work” and that he should be “treated robustly.”
“I was like” come on, “which is really sad in the context of what happened next,” she says.
Her first encounter with him was at a private screening of 1998 by Shakespeare in Love, where Weinstein just barked at her to “sit down.”
Harvey prison where he becomes prisoner no. 06581138Z
Sparse: a prison cell on the infamous Rikers Island in New York
The huge Rikers Island prison in New York has such a grim reputation that it is being closed.
Unfortunately for prisoner no. 06581138Z Harvey Weinstein, that will not happen soon enough. He will join an illustrious company like previous prisoners Sid Vicious, former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn and John Lennon’s murderer, Mark Chapman. The nicknames are Torture Island and – because the steel doors and concrete walls suck up the summer heat – The Oven.
With 10,000 prisoners at once, guarded by 9,000 guards, the 413-hectare East River Island has been described as the world’s largest penal colony.
“He was unpleasant, he was disrespectful, he was rude, it was no pleasure to work for him,” she says.
But there was also the more glamorous side; organizing meetings and flights on private jets such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon and Robert De Niro.
She was alone with Weinstein for the first time when she traveled with him and Zelda to the Venice Film Festival in September 1998. The office did not have a suite at the Excelsior hotel. The assistants worked in shifts until late at night, and Rowena was given the task of “late shift”, finalizing scripts, and organizing meetings between 10 p.m. and 2 p.m.
Although they never explicitly warned about Weinstein’s behavior, colleagues had joked that she had to wear a lot of clothes and never sit on a couch with her boss.
To the great shock of Rowena, as soon as Zelda left, “Weinstein almost immediately became naked.”
“He told me:” I love Chinese girls because they are discreet – they know how to keep secrets. “
“He constantly asked for massages, sexual favors and oral sex. I was very scared and felt very vulnerable. I was alone in a hotel room with a very large man without clothes on. “
She remembers how he flattered her that first night as they watched a script for Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.
“He said,” You are so smart that you went to Oxford, I see you really like literature, tell me what you think. “
“He told me:” You work for me now, if you do it right, you can do whatever you want “.
She desperately tried to get the conversation back to work, and it kind of worked.
The second night, however, she was not so lucky. Rowena says that Weinstein got rid of it again and started rubbing her back and groping her breasts.
‘It was horrible. I was very scared. I tried to leave, but he’s a big guy. He kept me on the bed and told me “it will be over soon”.
Rowena, who is 5ft 4ins and only weighs 8st 7 pounds, felt powerless against the 6ft, overweight, Weinstein. “I felt that if I confronted or screamed, the gloves were off. I felt trapped. It wasn’t just that he was my boss, but he was physically much bigger than me. “
Rowena managed to wriggle away, but was warned: “We will pick this up tomorrow,” which she interpreted as if she were raped.
Harvey Weinstein pictured at his office in New York City, April 1989. While Zelda spoke about Weinstein in 2017, she never mentioned Rowena, who decided four months ago to break the terms of her NDA, with details about her experience in the book She Said
The next day she trusted tears in Zelda.
Extraordinary her colleague, who was just 25, marched to where Weinstein had lunch with various A-list stars and demanded to talk to him. “He stood up, meek as a lamb,” Rowena recalls, but swore that nothing had happened. Back in London, Rowena and Zelda have considered their options. They found a law firm willing to hire them – Simons Muirhead and Burton – and resigned from Miramax by sending a fax to New York.
“It specifically said:” Harvey, we are resigning because of behavior that you know very well and that we can no longer tolerate. “
That night a series of desperate voicemails were left on Zelda’s answer phone from Weinstein, begging for a meeting.
But the next day he had called in Allen and Overy law firm to prepare an NDA (the company’s partner, Mark Mansell, is confronted with the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on his role in drafting the contract, with a date for hear it this year).
After weeks of intensive negotiations, of which Rowena says they were being forced, including an evening when they were held in the office from 5:00 pm to 5:00 am, they signed on October 23, 1998.
The NDA prevented them from ever talking about their time at Miramax or Weinstein. They could only discuss it with a therapist if the therapist agreed to contact the law firm and also sign an NDA.
“When you read our NDA, we were buried as well as corpses could be buried,” says Rowena.
She recalls that Weinstein made a crawling apology – which was secretly noticed by their lawyer but later refused by the film producer, “but no one said this was wrong, these young women should be at the police station!”
Both women received a settlement of £ 125,000. Rowena has set up a small paint-your-own ceramic cafe in Notting Hill.
She struggled, suffered from depression, anxiety and flashbacks. She sought help from eight therapists, but no one agreed to sign the NDA. She and Zelda broke every contact: it was impossible to keep in touch, because the NDA was forbidden from them ever to discuss what had happened.
After two unsuccessful suicide attempts, Rowena made a life-changing decision “to start a new life where I will never try to think of this man.” She went into management consultancy, a world where there are HR departments.
Fortunately, her life blossomed: she met her Australian husband Andrew and moved to the US.
While Zelda talked about Weinstein in 2017, she never mentioned Rowena, who decided four months ago to break the terms of her NDA, with a detailed description of her experience in the book She Said.
Weinstein denied her claims and said (through his lawyer) that he and Rowena had a “six-month physical relationship,” which she finds outrageous, since she worked for him for only two months. Weinstein’s lawyer threatened to file a complaint, but none of it ended up.
“I really want to have my day in court,” says Rowena. “But it’s not really about doing it for myself, it’s the bigger picture. We want to change the world for young women to come. For all our daughters and granddaughters. “