COURTESY OF LUCIA EVANS
Lucia Evans ’05 applied early decision to Middlebury. When she was a student here, she lived in Hepburn, Stew and Voter. She acted in plays, ate in the dining halls and took literature classes.
She is also one of more than 100 women who have accused famed Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, for an alleged incident that occured the summer before her senior year at Middlebury. She was part of some of the first criminal charges brought against Weinstein and an integral part of the dissemination of the #MeToo movement.
Evans, then Lucia Stoller, now runs a marketing consulting company, but was an aspiring actress in the summer of 2004 when she met Weinstein at a club in SoHo, New York. She agreed to a meeting at his office at a later date to talk about two scripts, where she alleges he assaulted her, forcing her to perform oral sex.
In 2017, Evans opened up about her experience to Ronan Farrow for his groundbreaking story in The New Yorker about allegations against Weinstein. The article prompted the New York police to contact Evans about pressing charges against Weinstein — they said she was “a highly credible witness” and repeatedly told her that she was “the only one who could put him in jail.” After months of deliberation, she agreed to join the criminal case.
Despite insistence from NYPD detectives about the viability of her case, Evans’ suit was dropped the following year when it was discovered that the lead detective on the case had failed to inform prosecutors about a witness with a conflicting testimony. Still, her decision to press charges helped jumpstart the legal process against Weinstein.
Now, Weinstein is on trial for five felony counts, including rape and predatory sexual assault, and six women are expected to testify against him. Weinstein and his lawyers maintain that all encounters were consensual.
The Campus spoke with Evans about her time at Middlebury, the process of prosecuting Harvey Weinstein and how the events of the summer before her senior year affected the rest of her life.
Editor’s note: This conversation contains references to sexual assault, rape and suicide. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
RILEY BOARD: When we first contacted you, you said that you’d be happy to speak with us because Middlebury had a special place in your heart. Can you talk about that? What did you do and study at Middlebury?
LUCIA EVANS: I was a Literary Studies and Theater double major. It was just a really special place for me. All of my best friends, my close friends now, are my friends from my junior and senior years there. Something about the place is so special.
I think the only thing that kind of soured it for me was, obviously, my sexual assault, which occurred the summer after junior year — so my senior year was a bit of a nightmare. But I think the people who go there just really want to make a difference in whatever field they’re in or whatever they’re doing, they always have multifaceted interests outside of class and really are the smartest people I’ve ever met. They continue to be the people that challenge me to this day.
RB: You mentioned in your most recent interview with Ronan Farrow that you had had a “magically good” life before [the alleged] assault happened, and that you had to reconcile how this affected and changed you, the before and after. It happened before your last year at Middlebury — then you came back to campus for another year. What was that like? What was it like in the immediate aftermath, the return to school?
LE: It’s so crazy, because that year was such a happy year for me a lot of the time. It was honestly the year where I had my closest friends and kind of my best group and took fantastic classes and had a really great social life. I was really active and — and yet at the same time, I felt like I was living this other life.
After I came back to school, I told my close group of friends, my roommates. We lived in Voter at the time, it was awesome. Voter was always a place I wanted to live, and I just never thought I would and I was so happy with this group of girls, with our space and our life that we shared. I really felt like I needed to tell them the honest truth. I didn’t tell anyone else the scope of what happened. Emotionally, it was a period of very high highs and very low lows.
I had the opportunity to play this role in the play “Necessary Targets,” which is a play by Eve Ensler [’75]. My character was on stage the entire play but she doesn’t speak except for one long monologue kind of toward the end where it is revealed — and she’s been holding a baby the whole time — and it’s revealed that the baby has passed away, and in her hands are just a bunch of rags, and she has been raped. And so she tells her whole story. And it’s heart wrenching. And I remember the director, when I was auditioning, saying, “You can just channel this character so well, it’s amazing.” And I remember thinking, “If only you knew why I could do this so easily.” And it was because it had literally just happened to me.
I kind of felt that in playing that role, that I had told my parents, which is ridiculous, but it actually really calmed me down and helped me deal with it for a few years, because I felt like in my own way that I had told them what happened to me. And then I could be at peace, which was, of course, not true. But it did give me some semblance of normalcy.
RB: Did you seek out help at Middlebury after that summer? From where did you draw support?
LE: When the cops came to my house two years ago and told me I could put him in jail, they were like, “Why didn’t you come to us right away?” And I said, “Why would I have come to you?” I mean, he was so powerful at that time — and he was the biggest producer in Hollywood. I couldn’t watch the Oscars or anything after it happened to me because I would see him everywhere. Every film, I still see his name everywhere.
I try to not beat myself up for what I didn’t do but obviously do wish I had gotten help. And I would advise anyone going through something similar to absolutely seek help, because it just compounds over the years and it becomes worse and worse and you’ll end up hurting yourself like I did for many years. And I don’t wish that on anybody else.
RB: We’re obviously in a very specific cultural moment, that of the #MeToo movement, in which survivors are coming forward in unprecedented numbers and college campuses are offering more institutional support for victims than ever before. What was the culture around consent and sexual assault when you were a student here? Was it possible to talk to your friends and peers about what you’d endured?
LE: If the #MeToo movement had happened then, there’s no question I would have said something right away. There was such a stigma around it then, and little did I know that 100 plus women were going through the same thing as me at the same exact time. And then obviously, women all over the world are dealing with much, much worse, and they have zero support.
It was hard for me to even say what happened to me and identify myself as a victim — or as a survivor, because now we’re meant to use the word survivor. Sometimes you feel like a victim, sometimes you feel like a survivor. You can be both, right? But I do remember at Middlebury, when I was feeling suicidal, my boyfriend at the time reached out to campus security — they were really fantastic. They were very supportive, even then. But the [#MeToo] movement didn’t exist. And there wasn’t yet that tipping point of cultural change where it became OK to talk about this, where people want you to tell the truth. Everyone I had met at Midd was great, I just was not ready. And the world probably wasn’t ready either.
RB: In the episode of “The Catch and Kill Podcast” on which you appeared, you spoke about how [the alleged] assault affected your confidence with acting and your career. Can you talk about that? How did that ordeal change your plans for the future?
LE: It completely changed it, for two reasons. One of them was that in my entire time as an actor, I’d always been of the school of thought that acting should come from a place of real emotion and raw energy — and you translate that into the character. Acting post-college was a struggle, because I was at a Meisner acting school that was all about coming from that place of real truth. So first of all, I couldn’t find my real truth because I was absolutely not ready to talk about anything. Whenever I tried to tap into any real emotion, I would just shut down. There was only one time when I was able to kind of let loose and then I knew after that I couldn’t do it anymore, it was just too painful. Even though everyone said, “Wow, that was amazing.” I was like, I can’t do it. I couldn’t act when I was hiding something that big.
The other reason was just because I had seen the worst of the industry, very quickly, and I thought that was what the industry was like. And I thought, I don’t want to do that. I have no interest. Now the whole narrative that they’re spinning is that people did it for roles. But I never got a role. And I never wanted a role after that, because I didn’t want to get a role like that. I just was not interested in being part of a system that just chewed up and spat out woman and didn’t respect them and forced them to perform sexual acts against their will.
RB: Now that your case has been dropped, what has it been like for you to experience Weinstein’s trial?
LE: I would have a lot more trouble experiencing it if it hadn’t been for this photo shoot [“100 Women vs. Harvey Weinstein”] that me and my fellow Silence Breakers participated in for New York Mag. It was so amazing meeting these people — we have an email chain that we’ve been on for years, but it was just me and a bunch of actresses. It’s so surreal for me. I’m the only non-actress on this email chain. It was like Rose McGowan and the other Silence Breakers, and I’m one of them, but I’d never met them. And meeting them was so meaningful and wonderful — and I just felt like I had all these sisters. And so thank God that happened before the trial, because now I have this amazing network of women who’ve been through some of the same things that I have and have been hurt by this horrible person but now we’re empowered and we’re a collective.
RB: I wanted to talk a bit about an interview with Donna Rotunno, Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer, that was aired in an episode of “The Daily” last Friday. Have you listened to the interview?
LE: No, I couldn’t listen to it. And I think that’s also an important point. Just because I think it’s important to realize that you do not have to do everything, because media consumption is so damaging sometimes. And I would just encourage people to take a step back and just not feel like they have to consume everything. Because your health is more important than browsing Instagram, you know what I mean? Or reading or listening to the podcast that you think might be triggering for you.
Tell me what I missed.
RB: Do you mind if I read you a quote from Rotunno from the interview?
LE: OK, sure.
RB: “So when I make comments and say ‘if you go to the hotel room,’ doesn’t mean you deserve to have something bad happen to you. But if you go to the hotel room, you continue to perpetrate a culture that allows that to be acceptable. And so if women take the power and women say, none of us are going to a hotel room, then that culture must change.” This was in reference to the circumstances under which many of the alleged assaults by Weinstein occured. How would you respond to that quote?
LE: I knew that he was a really dangerous person, and that put me on extra guard — I wasn’t going to go and meet with him late at night because I was nervous about him. I wasn’t as nervous as I should have been. But I went to his office in the middle of the day, when there would be people, because how could something bad happen to me, surrounded by people?
Also, why would somebody want to put themselves through this hell? I mean, it’s not like we’re getting anything out of this. None of us have gotten a thing out of this. This is not a fame-seeking thing. In fact, we’ve only lost jobs, we’ve only lost like careers and opportunities because of this.
We just really want to help and that’s the only reason why we’re doing it. I hope people continue to want to help because it’s the only way that any changes are ever going to happen.
RB: What advice would you give to someone who has just graduated and is beginning to navigate industries, like the movie industry, that can be fraught with certain injustices and circumstances like the ones that you have experienced?
LE: I would just encourage people to talk to someone as quickly as you can, because I wasted far too much time not being open and honest. Even though you can have some great times — it wasn’t like I just wiped 13 years off of my life. I got married, I have a wonderful career, I’ve had great things happen to me. But there’s still something in the back of my mind that wouldn’t leave me alone. And this thing that I hadn’t told anyone was like eating me up. So I would encourage people to talk about it with someone they trust and trust that person that they’re talking to.
I remember thinking in college, during my senior year, I just wish that my parents would tell me that I was still a good person, that it was okay that this happened to me. I just needed some type of validation, that I was okay and that I was still a good person, because I still thought it was my fault, which obviously it was not.
Also, I would not be afraid of the criminal justice system, even though I’ve had a really horrible experience with it. Because honestly, if you don’t try to make a difference and change the law, there’s no way that anything is ever going to change around here. And we all know that things have to change. So I would just say if there is ever an opportunity that anyone has to try to make a difference in that way, don’t be afraid of it. I’ve had the experience I’ve had and I would do it again, even though it was painful. The more you revisit these horrible things actually really helps you heal, even though you don’t want to go back to these places. And I hope no one ever has to go through what I did. And some have gone through far worse than I have. But it really is amazing how much it can help you heal by talking about it.