Just an hour after a New York jury found Harvey Weinstein guilty of rape, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance was at the podium, heaping praise on the women who testified and proclaiming the start of a “new day” for survivors of sexual assault in America.
“Words can’t adequately describe the sacrifices the survivors made to pursue justice,” he said. “Weinstein... did everything he could to silence the survivors, but they refused to be silenced. They spoke from their hearts and they were heard.”
But at least one survivor wasn’t impressed. Standing outside the courthouse, model Ambra Gutierrez reminded reporters how she had reported Weinstein to the New York Police Department in 2015, and even participated in a sting operation, only to have her case dropped by Vance’s office. To this day, she said, the D.A. has not apologized.
“I would love to have approached [Vance] one-to-one and see what he has to say,” she told The Daily Beast in a call on Tuesday. “Because I feel like even the fact of not including me in this trial, it was very surprising for me.”
“It’s making me ask a lot of questions,” she added. “I still want an answer.”
At just 22, Gutierrez was one of the only women to report Weinstein to authorities, telling police that he groped her breast and reached up her skirt during a meeting in his Tribeca office. In the ensuing sting operation, she recorded Weinstein admitting to the act and claiming that he was “just used to that.” But Vance’s office dropped the case soon after meeting with the producer’s representatives—passing up an opportunity to prosecute the rapist long before the #MeToo movement began.
Vance previously defended his office’s decision not to pursue the case, saying there was not enough evidence to move forward. “At the end of the day we operate in a courtroom of law, not the court of public opinion, and our sex crime prosecutors made a determination that this was not going to be a provable case,” he said at a 2017 event.
But when Gutierrez’s recording was released that year, as part of The New Yorker’s reporting on Weinstein, it played a massive role in shifting public perception around the movie mogul. Prosecutors have asked her to testify in the upcoming Los Angeles trial, where Weinstein faces charges of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, and sexual battery, in the hopes it will have a similar effect on the jury.
Still, Gutierrez said she is not surprised that she wasn’t included in the New York trial.
“I'm the living proof of what they did wrong,” she said. “So I’d say probably they didn’t want to put it in the middle, to have to say sorry.”
“I kind of understand,” she added. “I just want them to not do it again.”
A growing number of people have called for Vance’s resignation in recent years, over his office’s handling of sex abuse cases involving rich and famous men. Last year, it was revealed that Vance’s office had once lobbied for a reduced sex-offender status for convicted child molester Jeffrey Epstein. In 2016, the D.A.’s office allowed prominent New York gynecologist Robert Hadden to avoid prison time after 19 patients accused him of sexual abuse. (One of Hadden’s survivors, Marissa Hoechstetter, recently started an organization aimed at ousting Vance in the 2021 election.)
Gutierrez said she, too, would also like to see Vance out of a job. Asked if she thought he should resign, she replied, “Oh yeah, absolutely.”
“It should be accepted that he did something wrong, because otherwise it could discourage a lot of other victims [from going] forward with their cases, and I feel that’s not fair,” she said. “We really need to give the right example.”
Going forward, Gutierrez is focused on setting that example herself. She is currently lobbying for the Adult Survivors Act, which would increase the amount of time survivors have to file a lawsuit against their abusers. And she has also joined forces with the Model Alliance to fight for fair treatment, equal opportunity, and sustainable practices in the fashion industry.
Already, she said, she has received messages from women around the world telling her what a shift the verdict in the Weinstein case has caused.
“I have people from everywhere in the world telling me how much more strong and safe they feel right now that they have this positive experience,” she said. “Everyone needs to feel that their hope is materializing into something and this was... the example that they needed.”
She added, “That’s really what I was wishing for: to have them feel stronger and keep fighting.”