MANHATTAN (CN) — Whether screams would have brought help, she doesn't know, but E. Jean Carroll told Donald Trump’s attorneys in court on Thursday that she wishes she had been yelling as she fought to stop the future president from raping her.
At the time, she didn't want to attract attention, but Carroll wonders today if it might have meant more people would believe her now that she is finally able to tell the story.
It’s a question that stifles survivors, the witness noted.
“One of the reasons they don’t come forward is because they are always asked, ‘Why didn’t you scream?’” Carroll testified. “Some women scream, some women don’t. It keeps women silent.”
Carroll was quick to make the point during cross-examination in her civil rape trial against the former president. As Trump attorney Joseph Tacopina pressed the matter, Carroll broke for just a moment.
“I’m telling you, he raped me, whether I screamed or not,” Carroll said, her voice escalating into a sob.
Seconds later she was back to the composed persona that she showed in court for most of the direct testimony across the last two days where she explained that her upbeat, public personality masks a quiet inner self that “can’t admit out loud that there’s been any suffering.”
“I don’t need an excuse for not screaming,” she told Tacopina, who cited from discovery materials several explanations that Carroll has mentioned: She was coursing with adrenaline, she didn’t want to make a scene, the positioning of Trump’s body blocked her from raising her voice.
“So you didn’t scream while you were getting violently raped because you didn’t want to make a scene?” Tacopina asked.
“That’s right, that’s probably why I didn’t scream,” Carroll replied.
“We could probably come up with more reasons I didn’t scream," Carroll told the attorney, "but I did not scream. I did not scream.”
Instead she pulled up her tights, quickly left the scene, and called a friend for a gut check. She was hoping that Lisa Birnbach, a fellow writer, would tell her the incident that started as a funny, flirty “New York scene” was just that.
“If Lisa laughed and said 'That is funny,'" Carroll said, "then I would have felt better."
Instead, Birnbach told her to go to the police, which for Carroll was out of the question.
Her fear of Trump’s retaliation was reinforced by another writer friend who told her of Trump, “He will bury you,” with the help of “200 lawyers.”
“One of my biggest fears came absolutely true,” Carroll said in court Thursday. “He has two tables full of lawyers here today.”
Carroll, a former Elle magazine advice columnist, pins her alleged attack to an evening in the spring of 1996. She told jurors that she and Trump recognized each other in the famous revolving doors of the department store Bergdorf Goodman, and Trump asked Carroll's advice picking out a gift. He suggested lingerie, and the two headed toward the fitting room where Carroll says Trump forced first his finger, then his penis, inside of her.
Tacopina zeroed in on what Carroll does and doesn’t remember about that evening. She agreed it was unusual that a store known for its exemplary customer service was void of sales associates. But she also wasn’t searching for other people while taking the escalators up to the sixth floor with Trump.
“He was a big talker, so the time went pretty quickly,” Carroll said. “He’s a very engaging conversationalist. So I was not looking around. I was probably paying more attention to the conversation.”
Tacopina also asked Carroll about the timing of her decision to come forward, and whether she went public only when she decided to write and sell the book “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal,” in which Carroll detailed the alleged assault.
The first day Carroll set out on the October 2017 road trip where she gathered stories for the book, the writer explained, The New York Times broke the story on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct and assault involving dozens of women over decades.
“When that happened, across the country, women began telling their stories. And I was flummoxed at, ‘Wait a minute, can we actually speak up and not be pummeled?’ Woman after woman stood up,” Carroll said, nodding as she spoke. “I thought, well, this may be a way to change the culture of sexual violence.
“The light dawned," she continued, I thought, we can actually change things if we all — if we all — tell our stories. And I thought, by God, all right, this may be the time.”
Carroll rounded out direct examination Thursday morning by addressing several points that Trump’s team has focused on so far. In an interview with CNN, for instance, Carroll told Anderson Cooper — who has appeared on Trump’s witness list — that she thinks rape fantasies are common.
“I think most people think of rape as being sexy,” Carroll said. “Think of the fantasies.”
On the stand the writer explained her comments.
“I meant that rape is used in our culture in entertainment. For instance, in the ‘Game of Thrones’ there are nine violent rapes, and they were used as plot developments, to draw in the audience and to attract a larger audience,” Carroll said. “Even old movies like ‘The Fountainhead,' with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, portrayed rape on the screen. It is everywhere, used to attract an audience. And they’re using it I think because it has sexual connotations.”
She also spoke to the Trump team’s recurring claim that Carroll’s lawsuit is political, and that she filed suit only at the encouragement of George Conway, an attorney and harsh critic of Trump. Carroll agreed that a conversation with Conway “crystalized” the idea but said the idea had been floated before that, and many journalists would end interviews by asking her if she planned to sue.
Trump and his attorneys accuse Carroll of filing suit to sell books, an argument repeated in Tuesday’s opening arguments.
“She became a celebrity and loved every minute of it,” said Tacopina, of the firm Tacopina Seigel & DeOreo.
There’s “no question” Carroll enjoys attention, she said, but not this kind.
“Getting attention for being raped is not — it’s hard,” she said. “Getting attention for making a great three-bean salad, that would be good.”
Attorney Michael Ferrara flashed tweets by Trump supporters attacking Carroll’s looks and accusing her of being paid off. Those are all too common and were still being aimed her way as recently as Thursday morning when Carroll checked Twitter, she said.
“There it was again. The onslaught of the ‘liar, slut, ugly, old.’ It went on and on, just rolling, rolling,” Carroll testified. “It’s not a great way to begin the day. But I couldn't be more proud to be here.”Follow @NinaPullano
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.