When Louise Godbold came forward with her story of sexual misconduct by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in October 2017, she had already been a veteran trauma specialist for nearly a decade.
But all the training in the world couldn’t have prepared her for what happened after she opened “Pandora’s box.” “Suddenly it’s public property,” Godbold told TheWrap. “And not only that, you have to keep on telling your story.”
Godbold said she experienced what she called a “re-traumatization” by the media.
“What I hadn’t been prepared for was other people’s reactions,” she said, “the minimizing the dismissing, the excusing, not believing you, she said. “It’s very good reasons why people don’t come forward.”
Godbold was a young commercial producer looking for an internship at Miramax when she said Weinstein, an acquaintance she’d met years earlier, gave her a tour of his offices in Tribeca in the early 1990s. It was then, she said, the mogul cornered her in a conference room.
“Out of nowhere he grabs my hand and puts it on his crotch,” Godbold said, “which was incredibly shocking because I’d known this man for many years and had never had any inkling that he would behave in such a way.”
Weinstein later apologized and invited her to a meeting at the Beverly Hills Hotel a month later where mid-meeting, he changed into a bathrobe and asked for a massage.
“He calls me into the bedroom and he’s taken all his clothes off and he’s lying face down in the bed,” Godbold said. “Suffice to say, I did the worst shoulder massage in history and then he threw back the covers and let’s just say I could see that my shoulder massage had much more effect than I would have credited it.”
At that exact point, she said, a sense of self-preservation kicked. “I said, ‘I’ve got to go, my friend is waiting downstairs,’ and I shot out of there.” Godbold didn’t report the incident, thinking it was an isolated event by a “man who had temporarily lost his mind.”
But after the New York Times exposé hit last October and Weinstein threatened “to sue the people concerned and the journalists,” she said, “I just thought to myself, ‘No, no, no, no, no! No you don’t do that!’”
Today, Godbold is a trauma specialist and the executive director of the non-profit Echo in Los Angeles. Since coming forward, she’s been flooded with calls from other #MeToo survivors and held a special Silence Breakers workshop in July.
What happened after you published your story about Weinstein?
By the time I published my blog, Harvey had already stepped down and I figured that I was writing a footnote to the whole story… The next morning I woke up and I had major media outlets calling me for interviews and just bombarding our switchboard at work. What I hadn’t really appreciated is that when you come forward and you tell your story, this is something that you’ve compartmentalized… Now suddenly it’s public property. And not only that, you have to keep on telling your story.
One of the things that you learn when you study trauma is that… every time you tell your story your cortisol [stress hormone] levels are rising again, so it’s a bit like drinking six double espressos every time you give an interview and every time you tell the story again.
Do you think as a trauma specialist you were better prepared to deal with the aftermath?
I don’t think that anyone can actually prepare you for the double trauma of first of all the sexual assault and then the re-traumatization that happens in the media… What I hadn’t been prepared for was other people’s reactions… the minimizing the dismissing, the excusing, not believing you.. and it’s very good reasons why people don’t come forward. I didn’t expect to actually have worked all the way through each of those responses in the reactions of the people around me, including some dear friends, who have said, “Well, you weren’t raped, and this movement has gone too far, and you’re just making Harvey the scapegoat.”
Would you have done things differently knowing what you know today?
One of the things that can’t be anticipated is what happens when you open that Pandora’s box, and knowing what I know now, I would have done a lot more processing before going on national TV… You don’t want to process this on national TV… You have that same hormone reaction as if you were in the situation again, obviously not as severe, but to go through that over and over again, you’re going to experience those swings… getting highly agitated and then feeling numb and depressed, those are all notable responses.