Discover more from Airplane Mode with Liz Plank
E Jean Carroll is overwhelmed with joy
we can finally tell it like it is: trump is a sexual abuser
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Spring is in the air, and so is accountability. Trump is not longer an alleged abuser, he is a sexual abuser. I’m just telling it like it is. And boy, does the truth feel good to write.
After evading any consequences for his despicable treatment towards women for years, Donald Trump has finally been found liable for sexual abuse. E Jean Carroll, his accuser, says she is “overwhelmed with joy for the women in this country” after the jury sided with her on abuse and defamation claims, and made the ex-president pay $5m in damages.
Like many other survivors, Carroll was asked why she didn’t resist or report. She is a perfect example of #WhyWomenDontReport, a hashtag I started back in 2016 to draw attention to the all the reasons survivors rarely go to the police or to the justice system when they are raped. Even once she was on the stand, she was asked why she didn’t scream. “I’m not a screamer,” she responded to this inane question. “I was too much in a panic to scream. I was fighting.”
Carroll’s case enthusiastically dismantles many of the most offensive and lasting stereotypes about sexual abuse survivors. “Before yesterday there was a concept of the perfect victim,” she told NBC. “The perfect victim always screams, always reports to the police, always makes note when it happened, and then her life is supposed to … fold up and she’s never sort of supposed to be happy again […] and yesterday we demolished that all concept. It is gone. It is gone […] It’s really not about me so much. It’s about every woman.”
Trump being found guilty of what he has repeatedly said he does to women, is only happening because of survivors who worked tirelessly to change the law. Carroll was able to bring a civil suit against Trump under a new policy they fought for, the Adult Survivors Act (ASA), which allows victims to sue their abuser even if the statute of limitations has expired. It’s an enormous and tangible win for the #MeToo movement.
One of the women responsible for altering the course of history and providing a path to justice for Carroll and countless survivors is my friend and advocate Alison Turkos. After being kidnapped and gang raped by her Lyft driver, and surviving multiple assaults, she sued Lyft and the NYPD and took matters in her own hands fighting tooth and nail with other survivors to pass a new law that is responsible for finally catching Trump.
I reached out to Alison this morning and she shared feeling immense relief and pride for the inexhaustible activism of so many women that lead to this moment. “After three years we succeeded and then immediately got to work to let survivors know they had access to the civil court system in a way they never had before,” she said. “E. Jean was the first person to file a lawsuit under the ASA, and that made me so fucking happy to see the law being put to use.”
And while Alison is elated to see the ex-president finally being recognized as a sexual predator by our justice system, Turkos wants this encourages more survivors to come forward before time runs out. “How I’m processing the verdict is waking up today and going to work letting survivors and victims know they have 6 months left to file a suit, and that they’re not alone if they decide to file,” she said. “I’ll be with them the whole way just like we were with E. Jean. I’ll help them find a lawyer, have conversations about the system, and always be by their side.”
The goal of abuse is dominate and isolate, and that’s why building a fierce community around survivorship is so pivotal. “I hope this verdict sends a message to survivors that there’s an entire community wrapping their arms around you,” Turkos said. “I know from first hand experience that rape and sexual assault can be one of the most isolating experiences, and I will do EVERYTHING in my power to let other survivors know they aren’t alone. A community of survivors fought to change the law and we won! We made the Adult Survivors Act happen in New York, let’s do it in other states! We saw E. Jean file so let’s start filing lawsuits every day for the next 6 months.”
I’m so grateful for survivors and I’m thankful for Alison. Alongside other survivors like criminal justice reform advocate Donna Hylton (who I got to interview when I was at Vox), these women’s relentless activism is exactly why I created Airplane Mode and why I think it’s crucial for us to spotlight the people in our communities who are leaving the world better than how they found it. By locking arms with others, and persisting against all odds, we can achieve anything, and even bring the most untouchable man in modern American history to justice.
I want to leave you with Alison’s compelling and unedited words because today is a great day to listen and let survivors lead us.
What’s giving me hope that change is possible is that survivors are the future. As Sabrina Hersi Issa tells us “survivorship is leadership” and that has been out in full force these last few years. Society tells survivors to hide away, be embarrassed or ashamed of our rape. No, not me. My face was on a billboard in Times Square proudly stating I am a survivor of rape. I own my story, that’s what is giving me hope. To see survivors changing laws, sharing their stories, and lifting each other up. That’s collective liberation, that’s what we need and deserve.
Thank you to Alison and all survivors! We stand with you.