Student Opinion: The Past Haunts the Future

By Ariana Ceballos

(T.W: discussion of S.A) 

As of May 9, 2023, the infamous former President Donald Trump was found liable for sexually abusing, and later defaming, the writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s. Based on these liabilities, a jury ordered him to pay Carroll five million dollars. 


The former President, however, continues to dismiss any accountability despite the verdict of the trial. With the 2024 elections months away and his notorious mark as President well-known, it is worrisome to see Trump entering the presidential race again with no sense of accountability or understanding of his wrongdoings, potentially securing the power he once mishandled.  


Jean Carroll filed a civil suit against Trump. As reported by Li Zhou of VOX, it meant “Trump would have to pay damages if a jury agrees with her claims.” This would potentially mean a risk of jail time. Carroll included submitted claims about defamation against Trump—defamation which had resulted in psychological harm because of Trump’s alleged sexual assault, along with the comments that he had made about her making up the allegation. Trump’s counsel, on the other hand, argues that Carroll is manufacturing these allegations for personal fame and political reasons. 


A fake allegation is unlikely. As Zhou writes of the trial,“the case renews the scrutiny on more than 20 sexual misconduct allegations that have been brought against Trump.” That’s more than enough. Carroll’s claims fall under the disturbing pattern of behavior Trump has shown towards women; she is not the first to have spoken out about his wrongful treatment. 


Since this was a civil trial, Zhou explains how a panel of anonymous jurors will have to decide Trump’s liability on both claims, ultimately determining his accountability. Dan Mangan for CNBC concludes that the jury did not find that Trump had raped Carroll, but “ordered him to pay her five million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages.” While Trump was not found guilty of rape, his behaviors toward Carroll were found to be forceful, violent, and unwarranted.


In the trial, Carroll said in her testimony on the stand: “I am here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen.” Her statements were published in a New York magazine article, in which she described the incident happening in the department store Bergdorf Goodman, where she ran into Trump. This encounter escalated after Trump told her he  “needed help picking a woman in his life, ultimately heading to the lingerie department.”


It is in this context that Trump forced himself onto Carroll, and Zhous describes “groping her, and raping her.” The description bears similarities to other allegations made about Trump. Like many other victims of this crime, Carroll did not go to the authorities after the incident fearing her claims would be dismissed. 


The law that allowed Carroll to stand trial with these claims is known as the Adult Survivors Act, a New York law that “lengthens the statute of limitations for those initiating legal claims of sexual assault.” 


Carroll, an advocate of the law, wrote to lawmakers in support of its passing: “I stayed silent for years after I was attacked, and by staying silent lost my chance to hold my attacker accountable.” While the case has garnered much attention based on the individuals involved, it sheds light on the possibility for many victims of sexual assault to experience justice. 


Trump’s 2016 journey to the White House highlighted his wrongful behavior described by himself in the infamous Access Hollywood video. He basically boasted about his predatory behavior, saying, “When you’re a star, they let you do it…You can do anything.” 


In fact, after being found liable—not only did Trump dismiss the outcome of the trial, continuing his defamation of Carroll—he went on air with CNN Town Hall saying that she was a “wack” job and dismissed the story as unreasonable and fake. 


Despite these disgusting assertions, Trump has a huge supportive following that easily dismisses these claims just like they have been doing in the past. Even while this case is just a piece of the mounting legal troubles against Trump, they accept his word, his truth, and his vision of reality. I can’t help being concerned and wondering—how will the outcome of this trial and others involving Trump influence his upcoming run for President? 

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