In the aftermath of the historic jury verdict holding former President Donald Trump liable for the sexual abuse of writer E. Jean Carroll and years’ worth of defamatory attacks on her credibility, much of the focus has been on Trump.

Getting far less attention, however, is the impact of this $5 million vindication of Carroll’s claims on other, long-silent survivors of sexual trauma. This should have been a moment of vicarious triumph for them – and many, including Carroll herself, have already claimed that victory in their names. But others are worried that a backlash will build among Trump’s vast and avid fan base, setting the stage for a regressive shift in attitudes toward sexual violence survivors and the potential repeal of laws that have opened the door for long-delayed justice.

No matter what they feel about Trump, Americans must not allow that to happen.

Certainly, this civil verdict (which does not constitute a criminal conviction, and which Trump will almost certainly appeal) forces a difficult decision for his fan base and political allies. There are three choices here: They can back away from Trump, which doesn’t seem to be happening among many of his supporters. They can pretend this never happened. Or they can go on the attack, renewing the savage attacks on Carroll’s credibility and casting aspersions on the legal framework that allowed her, at long last, to raise her hand in an oath, tell her story – and be believed.

Either of the last two options will shore up cruel myths that have forced many survivors of sexual violence into the shadows: For too long, society insisted that there was a “right” way to pursue justice in these cases. That victims – even some who were children when they were abused, or those targeted by people who held significant power to threaten retribution – had a responsibility to collect all available proof of their assault and come forward immediately or resign themselves to eternal silence. That survivors who went on to lead apparently successful lives must not have been all that traumatized. That there was no way to prove allegations of events that were years or decades past.

Carroll’s case exploded all those erroneous beliefs. She explained that, after Trump attacked her in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City, she was ashamed, intimidated by Trump’s social standing and fearful that her career in publishing would be cut short. “Women like me were taught to keep our chins up and not complain,” she said.


She described how she suffered long-term effects from the sexual violence, including her inability to form a romantic partnership with anyone. And despite attempts from Trump’s lawyers to blame her for not preserving more evidence of her violation, her case was buttressed by testimony from two women who were assaulted in similar fashion and friends whom Carroll told about the assault.

All this has been known since 2019, when Carroll first went public with these allegations. All of this was ignored by many of Trump’s supporters (and even some of his rivals), some of whom blasted out statements that were remarkably similar to Trump’s claims that the jury had just declared to be defamatory.

It is possible to support Trump without shaming the people he’s assaulted, bullied and hurt over the years. All his supporters have to do is admit the obvious truth: They don’t care about those Trump has hurt. They don’t care about the swindles, the obvious lies, the often-flagrant violations of law and protocol. They are too enmeshed in his cult of personality to let go now.

They must confront their own refusal to hold Trump to any standard of decency or morality – not shift that burden onto Carroll, and by extension, onto the backs of the countless men and women whose hopes of someday seeing justice have been rekindled by this verdict.

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