Voices: I represented Trump’s accusers - because five brave women stood up, he has been caught in his truth
Because five courageous women stood together, E Jean Carroll won her sexual abuse and defamation case against Donald Trump. Five women said yes, I will brave the haters, the threats, the public attacks by Trump supporters; yes, I will hold my head high and walk into that courtroom; yes, I will answer all the questions posed to me with poise and dignity; yes, I will endure cross-examination by Trump’s bare knuckles lawyers; yes, I will do it all, I will overcome the natural terror anyone would feel at doing this, the anxiety, the sleepless nights, because enough is enough, because justice matters. And that’s exactly what they did.
On behalf of the four women I represented in 2016 who also accused Trump of sexual misconduct, and on behalf of the twenty-six women who have said publicly that Trump sexually harassed, groped or raped them, I salute these five heroines, who should always be placed at the center of any story about this case.
E Jean Carroll, the first of these women, was of course the plaintiff, the woman who said that after Trump attacked her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s, she never again had a romantic relationship with a man, robbing her, she said, of one of the great joys in life. She was believed, and the jury awarded her $5 million.
Carol Martin and Lisa Birnbach, both old friends of E Jean’s, testified that she told them what happened right after the sexual assault. Credibly reflecting women’s reactions to our friends’ horror stories, one told E Jean that she had in fact just been raped – that’s what forcing fingers and penis into a woman’s vagina without her consent is. Another warned her not to go to police – advice she now regrets. These women friends undercut attempts by Trump’s defense attorneys to argue that E Jean just made up the story recently. She didn’t.
Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff both testified that Trump had sexually assaulted them. These “Me Too” witnesses are permitted under the rules of evidence. Their testimony powerfully corroborated E Jean’s.
I have often observed that women get fiercer as we get older. Four of these five women are over the age of 65. E Jean Carroll, brave warrior that she is, is 79. Jessica Leeds is 80. In my cases, I am always pleased when my client is an older woman. I know she is more likely to be centered, to have gathered her support system around her, knows how to handle stress and keep marching forward. For all the grief senior women get in our youth obsessed culture, let us acknowledge the strength and fortitude of these elders. As an attorney representing dozens of women in civil sexual abuse cases every year, my team and I are often begging people to be witnesses. Everyone is afraid and doesn’t want to do it. Yet these women did.
For the other side of the equation, there is Trump, who chickened out entirely. Hiding behind his social media platform, he denied the claims and attacked the integrity of the justice system that found him liable. Yet he was not man enough to walk into the courtroom – he ghosted the trial entirely – raise his right hand, swear to tell the truth, and deny the allegations. The bully was caught with his pants down.
Yet Trump was compelled before trial to give a deposition, which was videotaped. That recording was played for the jury, and so Trump himself, in evidence that the jury saw, confirmed that “when you’re a star” one can sexually assault women, “fortunately or unfortunately.” (Yes, he confirmed, I’m a star.) We have often seen Trump caught in his lies, but at trial, remarkably, he was caught in his truth. It’s fortunate for celebrity men that they can attack women? Trump thinks so.
The case was not a “he said, she said.” It was five “she’s” standing together, plus one “he” whose own admissions proved him to be an abuser of women.
May the names of E Jean Carroll, Carol Martin, Lisa Birnbach, Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoyner be inscribed in the history books. Together, they brought down one of the most powerful men in the world, and surely inspired millions of other victims that justice is possible.