ROME, Italy — A young Italian model finds herself the victim of alleged sexual abuse by a powerful older man—for the third time.
When 22-year-old Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, an Italian of Philippine descent now working on her modeling career in New York, got a surprise appointment with media mogul Harvey Weinstein last week, she thought it would close an unhappy chapter in her life. The young woman has been engaged in a legal battle in Italy for the last few years, claiming damages to her reputation for her association with Silvio Berlusconi when she was just 18 years old.
Instead, according to her lawyer, Battilana was sexually assaulted by Weinstein when she went to his office. New York City police officers and prosecutors have followed up on the accusation, which is being taken extremely seriously, law enforcement officials tell The Daily Beast.
(The Daily Beast initially declined to name Battilana, following a long-standing practice of granting victims of alleged sex crimes their privacy. But Battilana’s Italian lawyer, Patrizia Bugnano, said that the model had given her the go-ahead to release Battilana’s name.)
According to the New York Daily News, the two met at Radio City Music Hall and he asked her to come by for an appointment so he could check out her modeling portfolio and acting tapes. The same paper also reports that Weinstein alleges a blackmail attempt and denies all charges.
According to Bugnano, a parliamentarian who represents Battilana and another young woman in the Berlusconi-related case, the model had been invited to Berlusconi’s home in 2010 under the auspices that it was a normal dinner party during which she and other young women would be paid to mingle with guests. It’s a rung in the ladder for young women in Milan who aspire to be showgirls and television stars on the Berlusconi networks. It was around the time that Ruby the Heartstealer of bunga-bunga fame was also a mingling guest.
Berlusconi was later charged and cleared with paying for sex with Ruby when she was 17. At his underage-sex trial, all the young women at his parties, including Battilana, were referred to as prostitutes and worse by witnesses. Battilana then sued Berlusconi’s close associates who testified or damages to her reputation, earning her the title of “bunga bunga turncoat.”
In her court testimony, Battilana describes arriving at the house and being given Tiffany jewelry served on a silver tray at which time it was insinuated that she was chosen by a Berlusconi crony, essentially handpicked to be “destined for Berlusconi’s bedroom.” She wasn’t interested but was still subjected to “degrading acts” including having Berlusconi and his cronies touch her. She told the court how Berlusconi “repeatedly and aggressively groped my backside.”
Battilana, who was a finalist for Miss Italy that same year, also said that she witnessed a number of young women performing nude lap dances on Berlusconi and other men. Many of the young women were required to kiss a giant statute of an erect penis to essentially test their pucker. Berlusconi denied most of those claims and instead insisted that his dinners were “elegant affairs.”
This wasn’t Battilana’s first unfortunate incident. During cross-examining at the Berlusconi trial, it was revealed that when Battilana was still a minor, she sued a 70-year old businessman for sexual assault. The man admitted to a relationship but considered it consensual, counter-claiming that he instead paid her handsomely with jewels, a car, and even expensive tanning cream when she was a contestant in the Miss Italy pageant. The unnamed man, referred to as Mr. G. in the Italian press, told Il Giornale, owned by Berlusconi’s family, that he suspected Battilana had become a “jolly” for the prosecutor, effectively accusing her of turning states evidence to avoid charges. She denied those claims.
Bugnano told The Daily Beast that her client will not stand for sexual assault, which is an assumed right by many men looking to hire young models and showgirls. She believes Battilana’s claims against Weinstein are true.
“I have no reason not to believe what she is saying is true,” Bugnano said. “She told me the whole story about what happened and she went to an interview arranged by her modeling agency and he touched her breasts and tried to lift her skirt. She was very bothered by the incident. She went to the police to denounce him. Now she is cooperating fully.”
Battilana posted a series of sayings among the gorgeous selfies on her on her Instagram page. They include, “Be real and always honest” and “There is no good sex without love.” At the top of her page she aptly advises, “Don’t stop dreaming just because you had a nightmare.”