An anonymous “Jane Doe” filed a federal lawsuit against GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump last week, accusing him of raping her in 1994 when she was thirteen years old. The mainstream media ignored the filing.
If the Bill Cosby case has taught us anything, it is to not disregard rape cases against famous men. Serious journalists have publicly apologized for turning a blind eye to the Cosby accusers for over a decade, notwithstanding the large number of women who had come forward with credible claims. And now history is repeating itself.
In covering a story, a media outlet is not finding guilt. It is simply reporting the news that a lawsuit has been filed against Mr. Trump, and ideally putting the complaint in context. Unproven allegations are just that – unproven, and should be identified that way. (Mr. Trump’s lawyer says the charges are “categorically untrue, completely fabricated and politically motivated.”) Proof comes later, at trial. But the November election will come well before any trial. And while Mr. Trump is presumed innocent, we are permitted – no, we are obligated — to analyze the case’s viability now.
No outsider can say whether Mr. Trump is innocent or guilty of these new rape charges. But we can look at his record, analyze the court filings here, and make a determination as to credibility – whether the allegations are believable enough for us to take them seriously and investigate them, keeping in mind his denial and reporting new facts as they develop.
I have done that. And the answer is a clear “yes.” These allegations are credible. They ought not be ignored. Mainstream media, I’m looking at you.
1. Consider the Context: Mr. Trump’s Overt, Even Proud Misogyny
The rape case must be viewed through the lens of Mr. Trump’s current, longstanding and well documented contempt for women. Men who objectify women are more likely to become perpetrators of sexual violence, just as one with a long history of overtly racist comments is more likely to commit a hate crime.
Mr. Trump has relished calling women “dogs,” “slobs” and “pigs,” and cyberstalked and derided journalist Megyn Kelly for having the temerity to ask him to defend his own words. He threw out the most misogynist of attacks, attempting to undermine her professionalism by accusing her of menstruating. He’s cruelly ridiculed the appearance of a female opponent (Carly Fiorina) and an opponent’s wife (Heidi Cruz). His campaign even openly acknowledged that it disqualified all women for consideration as his vice-president.
Mr. Trump has a long history of debasing women he’s worked with, crossing the line on a regular basis. He’s taken lifelong joy in objectifying women, including hisproclamation: “Women, you have to treat ‘em like shit.”
This cannot be ignored. Decades of abusive language does not make him a rapist. But it does show us who the man is: a callous, meanspirited misogynist who no sane person would leave alone with her daughter. As Dr. Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they really are, believe them.”
2. More context: two prior sexual assault court claims have been made against Mr. Trump
But Mr. Trump has been accused of worse than just misogynist language. Two prior women have accused Mr. Trump, in court documents, of actual or attempted sexual assault. (Mr. Trump denies all the allegations.)
Under oath, Ivana Trump accused Mr. Trump of a violent rape.
First was Ivana Trump, Donald Trump’s first wife, who said under oath in a 1989 deposition that he had violently attacked her, ripped out her hair and forcibly penetrated her without her consent. According to the Daily Beast, she claims he was wildly angry that she’d referred him to a cosmetic surgeon who had botched a “scalp reduction” job (to cover a bald spot) and caused pain in his scalp – hence the vindictive yanking on her hair. At the time Ms. Trump said she felt “violated” by the alleged “rape.”
A few years later, after their divorce was settled, Ms. Trump claimed that she did not mean the word “rape” in a “literal or criminal” sense.
Note: virtually every settlement of a case involving a high profile person paying money to a former spouse – or anyone – requires the person receiving the money to agree in writing to ironclad nondisparagement and confidentiality. In plain English: you promise to be quiet and not say anything bad about the party paying you money. This has been the case in hundreds of settlement agreements I have worked on over the years. Ms. Trump was almost certainly contractually prohibited after she signed from saying anything negative about Mr. Trump. And it is also common to attempt to “cure” prior negative statements with new agreed-to language – like, I didn’t mean it literally. (You didn’t mean forcible penetration literally?)
A business acquaintance accused Mr. Trump of sexual harassment and “attempted rape”.
A second woman accused Donald Trump of sexual assault, in 1997. According toThe Guardian, then thirty-four year old Jill Harth alleged in a federal lawsuit that Trump violated her “physical and mental integrity” when he touched her intimately without consent after her husband went into business with him, leaving her “emotionally devastated [and] distraught.” The lawsuit called the multiple acts “attempted rape.” Shortly thereafter she voluntarily withdrew the case when a parallel suit against Mr. Trump brought by her husband was settled. When The Guardian reached the woman in 2016 to ask whether she stood by her sexual assault allegations, she responded, “yes.”
In a court filing, according to a report, Ms. Harth alleged that while she and her husband were trying to do a business deal with Mr. Trump regarding a beauty pageant, he repeatedly propositioned her for sex and groped her, culminating in this frightening alleged incident:
Trump forcefully removed (Harth) from public areas of Mar-A-Lago in Florida and forced (her) into a bedroom belonging to defendant’s daughter Ivanka, wherein (Trump) forcibly kissed, fondled, and restrained (her) from leaving, against (her) will and despite her protests.” In the court document, she said that Trump bragged that he ”would be the best lover you ever have.”
Recently Donald Trump issued a statement that women’s claims of sexual harassment, documented in a lengthy New York Times investigation which included Ms. Harth’s lawsuit, were “made up.”
Jill Harth responded angrily on Twitter last week: “My part was true. I didn’t talk. As usual you opened your big mouth.”
In other words, she is standing by her story.