How one of Harvey Weinstein’s first accusers is fighting back and empowering others

(CNN)Model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, one of the first women to accuse former producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, is working with a group to try to protect other models from similar situations and violations they may encounter in their work.”Models have to feel safer and understand that they are in a position of power when they speak right now and not to be afraid, especially when there is an organization like Model Alliance that can support them in any type of problem that they might face that could be sexual harassment, abuse or financial transparency with agencies,”

Gutierrez told CNN in a recent interview.In 2015, Gutierrez filed a sexual abuse complaint with the New York Police Department against Weinstein, stating that he groped her during a meeting. The next day, The New York Police Department’s Special Victims Division asked her to wear a recording device. In the recording, Weinstein makes potentially incriminating comments to Gutierrez, apologizing for touching her breast.

Despite the recording, New York prosecutors cited a lack of evidence in the case and declined to prosecute. Gutierrez later reached an undisclosed settlement with Weinstein.The New Yorker published the audio recording from the police sting in 2017. At the time representatives for Weinstein said they had no comment on the audio tape.Gutierrez has since become a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement.

She’s partnered with the nonprofit Model Alliance, founded by model and filmmaker Sara Ziff, an organization working to make structural changes in the fashion industry to combat sexual harassment, among other goals.The group has also created a RESPECT program, which Ziff described as “a private sector initiative that calls on companies to sign legally binding agreements to uphold an enforceable code of conduct.”

“Understandably, there’s a lot of fear in the industry about speaking out about abuse, whether it’s economic issues, or sexual harassment or assault and at the moment there really aren’t proper channels for filing complaints and a lot of people don’t even know their rights,” Ziff said.Weinstein was convicted in February of committing a criminal sex act in the first degree involving one woman and rape in the third degree involving another. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 11 and could face 25 years behind bars. Weinstein maintains his innocence.

Following the initial police report Gutierrez filed against Weinstein in 2015, she said she spiraled into “a very bad depression.””The negative coverage impacted me very much.

I wasn’t welcomed into restaurants, into places that I would socialize with my friends here in New York,” Gutierrez recalled. “Let’s say that mentally, physically I was destroyed and of course, reputation wise.”But Gutierrez said she’s now stronger for the experience.

“I think that dedicating myself to helping others helped me a lot through what I was feeling and what I was thinking at the time,” Gutierrez said. “My hope is to inspire other women to speak, to see what I’ve been through and to understand that there [can be a] positive outcome.”

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