TW/CW: Sexual and verbal violence.
I first posted this piece back in January of 2017, the same month Donald John Trump was sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States. Since then, the number of his accusers has grown beyond the number noted in the title above.
One of the women who came forward to tell her story in more recent years is journalist and author E. Jean Carroll, who just won a legal victory against Trump in a New York civil court. A three-woman, six-man jury found unanimously that the former president is liable for sexually abusing Ms. Carroll back in the 1990s and for defaming her when she told her story publicly a few years ago. So confident was this jury in its decision that it awarded a $5 million judgment that Trump must pay her.
I am happy for Ms. Carroll and for the many other women who have suffered for years from the trauma that Trump inflicted upon them. They won’t get the justice they deserve, at least not in this lifetime. But I hope they experience a small measure of healing from this verdict, though Trump will likely appeal.
These are courageous women, some of whom I have gotten to know through my past work in the field of sexual violence prevention. They are neither political agents, fame seekers, nor gold diggers. They have endured death threats and rape threats, threats against their families, getting blacklisted for jobs, and having their reputations smeared with lies for telling their stories, and they knew they would. I repost my piece in their honor:
To the brave women who came forward with the truth of what Trump did to you:
I can only imagine what it’s been like for you these last several months. You had kept to yourself, or to just a few confidants, the story of what he did to you years ago. You handled the intense, lingering pain, confusion, and feelings of shame, each in your own way. Many of you probably thought you’d never need to talk about it ever again.
And then the world heard from the man, in his own words and voice, that he couldn’t help kissing women, that he enjoyed grabbing the most private areas of their bodies, and that because of his star power, they would let him.
And then the world heard more recordings:
- In one, he allowed another man to wonder out loud whether his daughter had breast implants.
- In another, he explicitly gave permission to the same man to call his daughter a “piece of ass.”
- In a third, he boasted of getting away with deliberately walking in on contestants in his beauty pageants while they were naked.
And we heard his denials. It was just “locker room talk,” he said. Just stuff he said, but didn’t do.
Then, one by one, you began to bravely tell your stories of what he had done to you. You did so publicly, knowing what people would say.
They’d accuse you of making it up. They’d say the fact you waited until right before the election meant you were lying.
Not understanding the psychological effects of sexual harassment and assault, they would insist your story had to be fake because of something you said or did afterward. They’d accuse you of conspiring to get Hillary Clinton elected, or that you were doing it for attention, money, fame, or all of the above.
And you were right, they did say those things. Some, for good measure, also called you bitches, whores, sluts, cunts, and pussies.
Some said they would rape you.
Some even said they would kill you.
Most, perhaps even all, of these reactions were not a surprise to you, especially in this day and age.
His denials went into an even higher gear. “Totally and absolutely false … fabricated … outright lies,” he said.
He blamed Clinton. He blamed the media.
He even called himself a victim.
In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, near the hallowed ground on which thousands of soldiers died for the values Americans hold dear, he promised, “All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”
You never really wanted anyone additional to know about one of the most painful parts of your life, much less, literally, millions of strangers. But you felt like you had to tell your story. The stakes were too high. The country had to know the truth – that the nation was about to make a sexual predator the most powerful person on the planet.
But after a few days, people rallied to him, proclaiming their belief that he was the one telling the truth. Politicians, pundits, and prominent male evangelicals declared their disgust with his recorded comments but made clear they believed nothing else happened.
Without saying it explicitly, they called you liars, too.
Then on Election Day, he won, and hasn’t looked back.
Nor have his closest supporters, like his own Vice President-elect, who told multiple national networks on the morning of Friday, October 14, that by day’s end, there would be proof that all of you were lying.
As of the date of this blog post, 90 days have passed. We’re still waiting for that proof. And those lawsuits, for that matter.
Of course, we know that proof doesn’t exist. And that he was bluffing about those lawsuits, each of which would either expose his serial abuse in greater detail or would cause him to perjure himself.
It shouldn’t take so many of you coming forward for Americans to believe you. False accusations of sexual assault are no more common statistically than any other major crime; research consistently shows that 92 to 98 percent of accusations are true. But the fact that so many of you have bravely told your stories gives the rest of us no excuse not to believe you. Like with Bill Cosby’s accusers, there is not only strength in numbers, there is no longer even a shadow of a doubt.
I do not know how or when the great injustices that have been done to you – the sexual violations, the years of pain, the retraumatization through public smears and vile threats – will be made right. I have faith that they one day will. Yet in the meantime, please know that you, and what you have been through, have not been forgotten as the political process and news coverage have moved on. Many millions of us believe you, the 22 that have spoken.
Temple, Jessica L., Rachel, Natasha, Mindy, Cassandra, Jill, Nancy, Kristin, Summer, Cathy, Karena, Ninni, Tasha and the other 2001 Miss USA contestant, Bridget, Jessica D., Mariah and Victoria and the three other 1997 Miss Teen USA contestants, we see you. We stand with you and with the others whose stories we have heard, but who have declined to speak publicly at this time.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking out. Your courage inspires ours as we rededicate ourselves to holding him and all abusers accountable, and to stopping violence against women and girls in every community, all over the world.