Jessica Valenti

Our Rapist President

Donald Trump is a serial sexual abuser, and no one—not even the media—is talking about it

Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

LLast week, beloved advice columnist E. Jean Carroll accused Donald Trump of raping her in a department store dressing room in the ’90s, making her the 16th woman to accuse the president of sexual abuse, and the second to accuse him specifically of rape. (Trump’s ex-wife, Ivana, said in a divorce deposition that Trump violently raped her. She later walked back the statement, saying she felt “violated.”)

We have heard from more than enough women — and Trump himself — to state the obvious: The president of the United States is a rapist. I realize the usual practice is to use the term “accused,” but this column is not a court of law and I am pretty well exhausted of eschewing common sense for the sake of niceties.

How much more proof do we possibly need?

Carroll’s vivid and disturbing account not only tracks with what Trump himself has been recorded saying about sexually assaulting women but with the accusations of abuse made by multiple other women.

Women like Jill Harth, who accused the president of an attempted rape, or Kristin Anderson, who says Trump put his hand up her skirt and had to be pushed away. Women like Karena Virginia, who claims Trump groped her breast, or Jessica Leeds, who sat next to Trump on a flight when he grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hands up her skirt.

There was the 21-year-old pageant contestant he forcibly kissed on the mouth, and the teenage girls, who Trump deliberately barged in on as they were changing. (In fact, when you count sexual harassment as well as physical abuse, the president has actually been accused of mistreating over two dozen women.)

I could go on, but I don’t think I have to. Because the truth is that we all know by now that the president is a serial sexual abuser. The issue is that no one with power seems very interested in holding him accountable for it.

In the hours after New York magazine published Carroll’s story, for example, there was little to no media coverage. When the New York Times finally wrote about the accusation, the article was published in the books section at the bottom of the website. On Saturday the story didn’t make the front page of the Times, the Wall Street Journal, the LA Times, or the Chicago Tribune.

Under a different administration, this would be the biggest story of the year. Instead, a woman detailing how the president raped her was met with a collective journalistic shrug.

Even worse, with bad reporting.

Politico published an article and tweet about the accusation, for example, in which they included Trump’s response that he never met Carroll, but failed to mention that New York magazine published a picture of Carroll with Trump. And headlines across several publications focused on Trump’s statement, repeating his claims that Carroll made a false accusation without giving equal focus to the long-time writer’s experience.

How much more proof do we possibly need?

Politicians, too, have been shamefully silent. Several of the Democratic nominees for president have addressed the rape accusation, but only briefly, and only when specifically asked. There has been no sustained response from Democrats in Congress. Is rape not an impeachable offense — or at the very least, something to hold a few hearings about?

It’s not that I’m surprised by any of this. In the hours after Carroll’s story published, I explained to a few of the men in my life why I didn’t think it would make much of a difference. They were skeptical of my pessimism, but by now women are well aware of how little we are valued in this country.

Still, it hurts to be reminded. From Trump’s election and the Kavanaugh hearings to the anti-abortion bans and more — these last few years have pounded away at any semblance of faith that some of us still had about how far women have come.

It’s not just that we’re disbelieved when we come forward about abuse. But that our safety and humanity is seen as so expendable, so unimportant, that it’s not even worth talking about.

We are all tired. There’s a self-protective numbness that sets in when inundated with horrors on a daily basis; I understand that. But the president of the United States being credibly accused of rape — again — is not news-of-the-day or just another wrong in a long line of misdeeds. It’s a crime, it’s a reminder of how dangerous this person is, and it’s a message to all American women that our bodies can be hurt, grabbed, assaulted, and mistreated without recourse.

It’s also a chance to do something. I just wish I believed that we would.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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