Ashley Judd was one of the first actresses to come forward and speak out about the alleged sexual harassment she received at the hands of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein — helping inspire over 50 women to do the same.
One of those women was former Weinstein production assistant Mimi Haleyi, who came face-to-face with Judd on Thursday in New York City at the Women’s Media Center Awards, where Judd was receiving the Truth to Power Award for coming forward with her story.
The moment was captured by PEOPLE, with Haleyi expressing her gratitude toward Judd. “Thank you,” she told the 49-year-old star, shaking Judd’s hand. Haleyi’s attorney, Gloria Allred, was by her side.
“You’re welcome,” Judd said in response. “It’s really nice to meet you… we’ll have more of a chance to speak.”
Afterwards, Haleyi told PEOPLE she wouldn’t have been able to come forward with her claims if it weren’t for Judd and actresses like Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cara Delevingne, who have also talked about their alleged experiences with Weinstein.
“I think that all the women that came forward before I did were completely essential for me to have the courage to come forward,” Haleyi said, while praising Allred for “fighting for justice and women’s rights.”
Though the bravery of Weinstein’s alleged victims inspired Haleyi, she admitted she was “very very nervous” to open up about about her claims. “It’s nerve-wracking and also it’s a destruction on your life when you do something like that,” she said. “[But] it’s like, ‘I can just carry on with my life and just nothing would happen or I can get involved, get engaged and speak up.’ ”
In her acceptance speech for the Truth to Power award, Judd recounted her alleged incident with Weinstein — which she says took place over 20 years ago when she met the producer at his hotel for what she believed was a business meeting. Instead, she claims she repeatedly had to fend off his advances.
“I came right downstairs and [my dad] could see it in my face that I was shattered and I told him everything and I’ve been telling folks for about 20 years, Judd said. “I am very happy that I’ve finally been heard.”
“We’ve been able to talk about how perpetrators are shameless and they put their toxic shame onto their victims and we internalize it and take it around with us,” she continued. “Until we say wait a minute, that was never my shame in the first place I’m going to put it back where it belongs which is on the sexual predator.”
In response to the lengthy allegations made against Weinstein, a spokesperson for the movie mogul said, “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein.”
“Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.”
Earlier in the day, Judd talked with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer. “I thought no meant no,” she said after alleging that Weinstein appeared in a bathrobe, asked to give her a massage and told her to watch him shower. “I fought with this volley of ‘no’s’ which he ignored. Who knows, maybe he heard them as ‘maybe.’ Maybe he heard them as ‘yes’s.’ Maybe they turned him on. I don’t know.”
On Tuesday, Haleyi came forward with her claims saying that Weinstein “orally forced himself” on her in 2006 when she was in her 20s.
Reading from a detailed statement in a press conference alongside Allred, Haleyi said she first met the disgraced mogul at the 2004 London premiere of The Aviator, and then ran into him again at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. After asking the producer for a job in New York, she claimed he invited her back to his hotel to talk about it.
There, she claimed she was led to Weinstein’s room by an assistant who left after the producer arrived. Once they were alone, Weinstein allegedly began asking Haleyi for a massage. She said she declined and suggested he call the front the desk for a professional masseuse before leaving.
“By that time, I was crying and felt completely humiliated and stupid about having a meeting with him,” she added.
Weinstein allegedly got back in touch with her after the incident and helped arrange for her to work on the set of an unnamed television show in New York. Haleyi said she and Weinstein did not speak “until shooting was over.” The next time they saw each other at the Mercer Hotel in New York for “a chat,” Haleyi said Weinstein was a “complete gentlemen and completely charming.”
After another allegedly “normal conversation” a few days later, she said Weintein asked her to accompany him on a private plane to Paris, where he said he’d put her up in the Ritz Carlton. Sensing the trip was “romantic” in nature, Haleyi said she declined the offer. But she said Weinstein would not take no for an answer, and continued to call her, at one point showing up to her apartment twice in one day.
“I finally said, ‘I’m not coming to Paris with you and I hear you have a terrible reputation with women,’ ” she said. “That’s when he backed off.”
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Weinstein made contact with her again after returning from Paris, according to Haleyi, who said she accepted his offer to visit his home in SoHo in hopes of maintaining a professional relationship. When she got into the private car Weinstein sent, Haleyi said there was a copy of the New York Post in the backseat with a cover photo showing Weinstein and his now-estranged wife Georgina Chapman together in Paris. “I wonder if it had been strategically placed there,” Haleyi said.
The sexual advances began soon after she arrived to his home, Haleyi said at the press conference. She alleged she even told the producer she was on her period and that there was “no way” anything was going to happen.
“He wouldn’t take no for an answer and backed me into a room which was not lit, but looked like a kid’s bedroom with drawings on the walls,” she said. “He held me down on the bed, I tried to get him off of me but it was impossible. He was extremely persistent and physically overpowering.”
She continued, “He then orally forced himself on me while I was on my period. He even pulled my tampon out. I was in disbelief. I would not have wanted anyone to do that with me even if the person had been a romantic partner.”
After the attack, Haleyi said Weinstein asked her, “Don’t you think we are so much closer to each other now?” She said she replied, “No.”
Weinstein, 65, is currently staying at a luxury resort in Arizona where he is receiving inpatient and outpatient medical treatment to “deal with this issue head-on.”
In the wake of the scandal, Weinstein has been fired from his powerhouse studio, the Weinstein Company, and his wife, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, has announced she’s leaving him.
Meanwhile, more stories of his alleged harassment continue to come out in the wake of a bombshell New York Times report earlier this month, in which Judd and seven other women first accused him of acting inappropriately. The paper also reported that Weinstein reached private settlements with eight women, including actress Rose McGowan.
More than 50 other women have since spoken out against the producer in follow-up accounts in the New York Times, the New Yorker and elsewhere — with allegations including rape, forced oral sex, groping and harassment.