NEW YORK –
Donald Trump’s lawyer sought Thursday to pick apart a decades-old rape claim against the former president, questioning why accuser E. Jean Carroll did not scream or seek help when Trump allegedly attacked her in a department store.
But Carroll, a writer and former advice columnist, rebuffed the suggestion that rape victims are supposed to act a certain way, saying such thinking deters women from coming forward.
“I’m telling you, he raped me, whether I screamed or not,” Carroll said, her voice rising and breaking, at the federal civil trial in New York.
Carroll, who is suing Trump over the alleged assault, claims he raped her in a dressing room at the posh Manhattan store in 1996. She did not go to police and said she only told two close friends at the time.
Trump lawyer Joseph Tacopina suggested her claims strained credulity, contending that she only came forward in 2019 — midway through Trump’s presidency — because of her disdain for his politics and because she wanted to sell copies of her book.
Trump, 76, says the encounter never happened, that he doesn’t know Carroll and that she’s not his “type” — comments that are at the heart of the defamation claims in Carroll’s lawsuit. The complaint seeks unspecified damages and a retraction of the comments.
Trump did not mention the trial during a campaign event Thursday in Manchester, New Hampshire. He’s not expected in court, though his lawyers have not entirely ruled it out. Jurors are expected to see parts of a videotaped deposition he gave in the case.
On Wednesday, Trump launched a counterattack against the trial on social media, telling followers on his Truth Social platform that the case was “a made up SCAM” and alluding to a DNA issue that Judge Lewis A. Kaplan has barred from the trial.
The outburst drew a rebuke and a warning from Kaplan, who called it “entirely inappropriate.”
Consistent and unruffled in her second day of testimony, Carroll grew frustrated as Tacopina zeroed in on how she says she behaved during the alleged assault. She says it happened after a chance run-in with Trump at luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman in spring 1996.
“You can’t beat up on me because I didn’t scream,” Carroll forcefully told Tacopina. She had explained in earlier testimony that she was “not a screamer — I’m a fighter.”
Carroll, 79, said that if she were lying about the assault, she would’ve told people she had screamed because “more people would have believed me.”
But, she emphasized, “I don’t need an excuse for not screaming.”
When Tacopina used the word “supposedly” to cast doubt on her claim, she immediately and sternly rebuked him.
“Not `supposedly.’ I was raped,” she said.
“That’s your version, Ms. Carroll, that you were raped,” Tacopina said.
“Those are the facts,” she replied.
She did, however, concede that some details of her story — including the lack of witnesses in a department store — were “difficult to conceive of.”
Seeking to make that point, Tacopina questioned Carroll about her testimony that she eventually fought Trump off while wearing 4-inch (10 cm) heels and without letting go of her purse.
The lawyer underscored, through his questions, that she didn’t seek help from anyone in the store as she allegedly fled by riding six flights down an escalator, didn’t ask about security video and didn’t seek medical attention or call police.
Carroll said she initially felt charmed by Trump as he asked for her help finding a women’s gift, exchanged jokes with her about trying on a see-through garment and led her into a dressing room. Even when he slammed the door and shoved her into the wall, she said, she couldn’t help but laugh and think there had been some mistake or misunderstanding.
“I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on,” Carroll testified as jurors listened attentively.
“Then he put his mouth against mine,” she said, “and I understood.”
Carroll said Trump yanked down her tights and raped her before she kneed him and fled. She said she would have kept the accusation secret forever if not for the #MeToo movement, which gained prominence in 2017.
The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.
Carroll sued in November after New York state enacted a law allowing lawsuits over long-ago claims of sexual assault.
Carroll said Thursday that a look at social media once the trial started revealed fresh insults against her as people labelled her a “liar, slut, ugly, old.”
“But I couldn’t be more proud to be here,” she testified.
Associated Press Writer Larry Neumeister contributed to this story.