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Trump accuser speaks of enduring shame after joking flirtation led to rape

The former magazine advice columnist took the stand on a day that Trump's pointed posts about the case on social media drew critique from the presiding judge.

MANHATTAN (CN) — As her own lawyer asked what she did after Donald Trump raped her, E. Jean Carroll lost her composure. 

“You ask me what I did in that moment. I always think back to why I walked in there to get myself in that situation,” Carroll said, choking up after a long pause on the witness stand, about one hour into her testimony. “But I’m proud to say I did get out. I got my knee up. I got my knee up and pushed him back.” 

Carroll, a writer and former Elle magazine advice columnist, says Trump raped her in a fitting room of the department store Bergdorf Goodman one night in 1996. She told jurors that the two recognized each other in the store's famous revolving doors, and what was supposed to be a playful shopping trip unfolded, with Trump asking Carroll's advice picking out a gift. 

“I was delighted,” Carroll said. “It was such a funny New York scene. I’m a born advice columnist, I love to give advice, and here was Donald Trump asking me for advice about buying a present.” 

She described herself as swept up in what she considered an amusing moment with a “well-known raconteur, man about town.” 

Carroll was 52 at the time and says Trump joked about her age, "so old." But when he held up a bodysuit to her in the lingerie department and asked her to try it on, she says he walked back the insult by remarking on her physique. "You're in shape," he said allegedly. Tossing the skimpy item back to Trump, she joked with him it would go better with his eyes. 

“He said, ‘Let’s try this on,’ and he motioned toward the dressing room,” Carroll said. 

Then in the fitting room, she continued, Trump slammed the door and pushed her against the wall. Hoping that her laughter would make clear that she didn’t intend to get intimate, Carroll said she tried to keep the mood cordial. 

“This is going to sound odd: I didn’t want to make a scene. I know that sounds strange. I didn’t want to make him angry at me. I didn’t want to stop what started out as something light and fun and comedic and a great story to tell people I am having dinner with,” Carroll said. “And it suddenly turned absolutely dark.” 

Carroll said Trump pressed his mouth to hers and held her against the wall with one hand as he pulled down her tights. He penetrated her with his fingers, she said, which was “extremely painful.” 

“As I’m sitting here today, I can still feel it,” Carroll testified. “Then he inserted his penis.” 

After some struggle Carroll was able to get away, she said. That night she called a friend, writer Lisa Birnbach, and told her what happened. But she had not yet processed the incident. 

“Adrenaline was flowing through my body, so it was just very hard for me to comprehend if it was what it was,” Carroll said. Then she added, softly, “Of course I probably had a good idea of what it was, so I had to tell Lisa.” 

“He raped you, E. Jean, you should go to the police,” Carroll recalled Birnbach telling her. There was no chance of that happening. 

“I was ashamed, I thought it was my fault,” Carroll said. “I was flirting with him, laughing.” 

Thinking about the future of her daily national television show based on her advice column, Carroll feared that reporting the incident could prompt Trump’s retaliation and get her fired. The show was produced by Roger Ailes, a friend of Trump’s. 


Attorney Michael Ferrara asked if she was worried about how people would react. 

“No, I knew how others would react. Women who are raped are looked at as soiled goods,” Carroll said. “People say, ‘Oh, you’re so brave, you're so brave,’ but really they're thinking, 'I don’t know, she should have been smarter; or I don’t know, she should have screamed ... Maybe that dress she was wearing. Maybe she flirted too much.'”

There were other reasons to keep quiet: The eldest of four, Carroll said she was raised in a family intent on staying positive, never discussing upsetting news. Plus she made a living as a pillar of strength for readers going through tough times — staying upbeat and optimistic.

“And then I have, you know, a private self, and that’s the one that can’t admit out loud that there’s been any suffering,” Carroll said. "Private E. Jean — she's not the cheerleader."

That push-and-pull was evident as Carroll's first day of testimony came to a close. Describing the vitriol she received from Trump supporters after she came forward, Carroll began to cry. But she insisted there was joy behind the tears.

"Being able to get my day in court, finally, is everything to me. So I'm happy," she said, nearly wailing on the final word.

Seconds later, her composure fully restored, Carroll pressed on without a break. The "cheerleader" returned.

"I'm going to get myself together here. I'm in court. This is my moment," Carroll said. "I'm not going to sit here and cry and waste everybody's time."

Carroll said she has not had sex since the night Trump raped her. She joined some dating apps and was set up on some dates. But flirting with a man, in her mind, had been the "worst decision" of her life.

"I know people have been through a lot worse than this," Carroll said, "but it had — it left me unable to ever have a romantic life again.”

Carroll’s lawsuit would normally be barred by the statute of limitations, but New York lawmakers made it possible with the passing of new legislation last year that offers a 12-month look-back window for survivors of abuse to seek justice. The complaint also includes a defamation count based on what Trump said in 2019 when Carroll finally came forward. 

“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it he said it didn’t happen. He lied and shattered my reputation and I’m here to try to get my life back,” Carroll, now 79, said from the witness stand.  

Asked what she had expected Trump to say, Carroll replied, "I thought he was going to say it was consensual."

"Why was what he actually said so much — why was it worse than him describing it as consensual?" Ferrara asked.

“He said it didn’t happen," Carroll replied. "He was there, he knows it happened.”

The second day of trial on Wednesday began with U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan reading from Trump’s latest posts on his social media platform, Truth Social, attacking Carroll and her attorneys. 

“What seems to be the case is that your client is basically endeavoring to speak to his quote-unquote public, but more troublesome, to the jury in this case, about stuff that has no business being spoken about,” Kaplan said.

Trump’s attorney Joseph Tacopina said he would ask his client to stop posting about the case.

“I hope you’re more successful, because we’re getting into an area conceivably in which your client may or may not be tampering with a new source of potential liability,” Kaplan replied. “I think you know what I mean.”

Hours later a second warning came, after Trump's son, Eric, put out a now-deleted tweet calling out the reported backing of Carroll's lawsuit by billionaire LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. (Kaplan ruled Wednesday that Trump's attorneys may not raise the funding issues at trial.)

"I said something this morning about your client perhaps now sailing in harm's way. ... Remedies that are available from this court may not be the only relevant remedies, and if I were in your shoes, I would be having a conversation with the client," Kaplan said.

"I am simply suggesting to you that there are some relevant United States statutes here, and somebody on your side ought to be thinking about them."

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Categories / Civil Rights, Entertainment, Media, Trials

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