Harvey Weinstein's ex-assistant says he told her he 'liked Chinese girls' before assault

Rowena Chiu, a former assistant to Harvey Weinstein, has opened up about what she says was a sexual assault at the hands of the disgraced Hollywood producer and the decades of trauma it caused her. 

In an emotional op-ed published Saturday in The New York Times, Chiu described a late-night meeting with Weinstein during the 1998 Venice Film Festival in which he attempted to rape her. She spoke about the “four power dynamics of gender, race, seniority and wealth” that she said tilted in Weinstein’s favor ― an imbalance that had made pushing back and speaking up a towering challenge. 

Chiu was then a young woman of color who was saddled with student debt and clinging to the lowest rung of the Hollywood ladder. Weinstein was a multimillionaire and one of the industry’s most influential figures.

“Harvey was a power player, and I was the lowest person on the totem pole,” Chiu said. “Assistants are the unseen work force that props Hollywood up, and yet we have zero leverage. I was invisible and inconsequential.” 

Chiu said that on the day of the rape attempt, Weinstein told her “he liked Chinese girls ... because they were discreet, he said ― because they knew how to keep a secret.” 

Then, just “before he tried to rape me, [he said] he’d never had a Chinese girl,” she added. 

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Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at the 1st Precinct in Manhattan in New York, U.S., May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
A police officer is seen in front of the 1st Precinct in Manhattan as film producer Harvey Weinstein is expected to arrive, in New York, U.S., May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Harvey Weinstein departs New York Police Department's First Precinct in handcuffs on May 25, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jackson Lee/GC Images)
Film producer Harvey Weinstein, surrenders on sexual assault charges to the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in New York City, U.S., May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky
Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at the 1st Precinct in Manhattan in New York, U.S., May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Film producer Harvey Weinstein arrives at the 1st Precinct in Manhattan in New York, U.S., May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Harvey Weinstein turns himself in to the New York Police Department's First Precinct after be served with criminal charges by the Manhattan District Attorney's office on May 25, 2018 in New York City. The former movie producer faces charges in connection with accusations made by aspiring actress Lucia Evans who has said that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in his Manhattan office in 2004. Weinstein (66) has been accused by dozens of other women of forcing them into sexual acts using both pressure and threats. The revelations of the his behavior helped to spawn the global #MeToo movement. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Harvey Weinstein leaves a New York criminal court after posting bail following his arrest this morning on charges of rape, committing a criminal sex act, sexual abuse and sexual misconduct on May 25, 2018 in New York City. Weinstein's bond was set at $10 million and he will be required to wear a GPS monitoring system. The former movie producer faces charges in connection with accusations made by aspiring actress Lucia Evans who has said that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in his Manhattan office in 2004. Weinstein (66) has been accused by dozens of other women of forcing them into sexual acts using both pressure and threats. The revelations of the his behavior helped to spawn the global #MeToo movement. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Harvey Weinstein turns himself in to the New York Police Department's First Precinct after be served with criminal charges by the Manhattan District Attorney's office on May 25, 2018 in New York City. The former movie producer faces charges in connection with accusations made by aspiring actress Lucia Evans who has said that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in his Manhattan office in 2004. Weinstein (66) has been accused by dozens of other women of forcing them into sexual acts using both pressure and threats. The revelations of the his behavior helped to spawn the global #MeToo movement. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Harvey Weinstein along with his attorney Benjamin Brafman (L) appears at his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday, May 25, 2018. The former movie producer faces charges in connection with accusations made by aspiring actress Lucia Evans who has said that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in his Manhattan office in 2004. Weinstein (66) has been accused by dozens of other women of forcing them into sexual acts using both pressure and threats. The revelations of the his behavior helped to spawn the global #MeToo movement. (Photo by Steven Hirsch-Pool via Getty Images)
Police officers and members of the media stand in front of the 1st Precinct in Manhattan as film producer Harvey Weinstein is expected to arrive, in New York, U.S., May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Members of the media stand next to the 1st Precinct in Manhattan as film producer Harvey Weinstein is expected to arrive, in New York, U.S., May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Harvey Weinstein departs New York Police Department's First Precinct in handcuffs on May 25, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jackson Lee/GC Images)
Harvey Weinstein leaves the Manhattan Criminal Court on May 25, 2018 in New York. - Weinstein was arrested and charged Friday with rape and other sex crimes involving two separate women, New York police announced shortly after the fallen Hollywood mogul surrendered to authorities. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR / AFP) (Photo credit should read KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)
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Chiu, who said she had been hired by Weinstein a few months earlier in 1998 and had been bullied by him previously, said she spent hours that night “fending off [Weinstein’s] chitchat, flattery, requests for massages and a bath” before she was ultimately “pushed back against the bed” by her then-boss.

“I’d worn two pairs of tights for protection, and tried to appease him by taking one of them off and letting him massage me, but it hadn’t worked,” Chiu wrote of the assault. “He’d taken off the other pair and I was terrified my underwear would be next. Harvey moved in: Please, he told me, just one thrust, and it will all be over.”

Chiu said she, terrified, had pleaded with Weinstein to let her go and eventually managed to “wriggle off the bed and leave.” 

Chiu — who first went public with her allegations against Weinstein in a September “Today” show interview and in “She Said,” a recently published book documenting the Me Too movement — went on to describe how she and a female co-worker later confronted Weinstein about his behavior.

Chiu said, however, that they were laughed at by their senior colleagues and were compelled to sign a nondisclosure agreement. 

“When we began attempts to report Harvey to his superiors or the police, multiple senior individuals acted to shut us down. Some outright laughed in our faces. The message was always the same: Who would ever believe us over the most powerful man in Hollywood?” Chiu said. 

She added that the negotiations for the NDA had been conducted under “conditions of extreme duress.”

“We were once kept at the office overnight, from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., escorted to the bathroom, provided with the barest minimum of food and drink and not permitted pen and paper to keep notes,” Chiu wrote. “We were not even allowed to keep a copy of this most egregious of agreements: We had signed our lives away in a complex 30-page document that we could not refer to.”

Weinstein denied Chiu’s allegations through a lawyer last month. He claimed he’d had a “six-month physical relationship” with Chiu that was consensual ― a suggestion that Chiu has vehemently denied.

The attorney added that Weinstein was “now studying taking legal action” against Chiu for breaking the NDA, AP reported.

Chiu said she’d accepted a settlement of about $213,000 from Weinstein.

But she said her silence came at a far higher price. 

In the years following the alleged assault, Chiu said she attempted suicide twice. She felt overwhelmed by the “devastating, suffocating secret” she carried ― one she didn’t dare share with even those closest to her. 

“I suffered, completely isolated from those around me who could have provided the support I needed: a loved one, a trusted pastor, a respected therapist — even the man I would marry,” Chiu wrote. “I spent decades grappling with guilt that I took the job, that I hadn’t left the room sooner, that it was somehow my fault, that I hadn’t handled Harvey ‘robustly’ enough, that I was not tough enough to work in the film industry.”

Chiu said she finally decided to come forward with her story after hearing the public testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Brett Kavanaugh, then a nominee for the Supreme Court, of sexual assault. Chiu said she was also inspired by other women who’d told their own Me Too stories about Weinstein and others. 

Weinstein has been accused by about 70 women of sexual misconduct ranging from sexual harassment to assault and rape. He has denied all allegations. 

Chiu said she felt it was important that she lend her voice ― “an Asian voice, an assistant’s voice, to join the array of voices in the #MeToo movement.” 

“I am happy that my children can know my secret; I am grateful to be able to be honest with family and friends, who are coming forward in droves to offer support,” Chiu concluded her op-ed. “I can briefly glory in the relief that I am no longer sitting on a sickening secret that has — finally and ultimately — come to light.” 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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