Today, in one of the few healing moments of the 2020s, a jury found that former President Donald Trump sexually abused E. Jean Carroll in 1996, and defamed her reputation after she came forward in her book, What Do We Need Men For?. She will be receiving a $5 million payout for both battery and defamation, according to CNN.
Carroll’s testimony brought up an important, and often overlooked, part of coming forward about abuse. When Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, asked her why she did not scream during the assault, Carroll responded: “I’m not a screamer. I was too much in panic to scream,” she explained. “You can’t beat up on me for not screaming. Women who don’t come forward, one of the reasons they don’t come forward is they are asked why they didn’t scream. Some women scream, some women don’t. It keeps women silent.”
Carrol suffered through one of the most dehumanizing, agonizing and torturous experiences a person can go through, and much like thousands of other women across the world, she was asked “well, why didn’t you stop it?” For anyone who does not understand this yet: the onus is not on the victim to stop a crime. Every time this kind of question is asked, the victim’s testimony is questioned, their truth is sullied, and they are made to feel guilty about someone else’s horrific crime. As Carroll said, it’s one of many reasons that keep victims from coming forward about their experiences, and keeps men like Trump free–and oh yeah, in the highest office.
When asked why she didn’t come forward when Trump first ran for President, Carroll responded with an appalling observation: “I noticed that the more women who came forward to accuse him, the better he did in the polls,” she said. Trump has so many sexual assault allegations, the allegations have their own Wikipedia page.
Nearly 30 women have accused Trump of sexual assault, and he not only did he win the presidency in 2016, he has garnered a cult-leader status. Trump is (unfortunately) not just an exception. Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh both faced high-profile sexual assault testimonies, and were still elected into the Supreme Court. Then there’s Senator Al Franken. And Roy Moore. And George H.W. Bush. And John Conyers Jr. And Dean Westlake. And Don Shooter. And Sebastian Ridley-Thomas. And Joseph Souki. And Dillon Bates. And Dan Kirby. And Bryce Marlatt. And Eric Schleien. And, and, and…
Because of the controversial nature of this case, with possibly the most controversial person in American history, Judge Lewis Kaplan advised the jury members to remain anonymous, even after the case was finished, according to CNN. “My advice to you is not to identify yourselves,” said Kaplan. “Not now and not for a long time. If you’re one who elects to speak to others and to identify yourselves to others, I direct you not to identify anyone else who sat on this jury. Each of you owes that to the other whatever you decide for yourself.”
Carroll, who is a successful journalist and author, had to publicly share the details of the rape that took place in a Bergdof Goodman department store. Though she is a Democrat, Carroll reassured the jury that this case was not due to her political leanings.
“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen,” Carroll said in her testimony. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I’m here to try to get my life back. I’m not settling a political score, I’m settling a personal score because he called me a liar repeatedly and it really has decimated my reputation. I’m a journalist – the one thing I have to have is the trust of the readers.”
Trump did not attend the trial, and we’re thankful that Carroll did not have to relive her trauma in front of the man who caused it. We are so grateful to every brave survivor that comes forward to seek justice, especially when their abusers are famous, powerful and rich men. As women face blow after blow, these wins keep us hopeful for the future. Thank you Anita Hill. Thank you Christine Blasey Ford. Thank you Samantha Holvey. Thank you Jessica Leeds. Thank you Amy Dorris. Thank you E. Jean Carroll, and thank you to all the women who seek justice in a system that is designed to keep them quiet.
Top photo: julieannesmo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons