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Opinion | #MeToo meets Donald Trump in court

For many women, Mr. Trump has become a symbol of male sexual rights. I heard this phrase repeatedly when I was researching books on why accusers are often viewed with suspicion. One woman I spoke to, Marissa Ross, who has written about sexual assault and harassment in the wine industry, explained her typical response to the infamous “Access Hollywood” video that appeared during the 2016 presidential campaign. The reaction, in which Mr Trump boasted: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything”, including “grabbing” women by their genitals. When she heard the tape, Ms. Ross told me, “I don’t just hear Donald Trump. I hear everyone who’s ever hurt me. It’s the high school boys, it’s my ex-boyfriend, It’s the men. For me, and I think for many other survivors, it’s not just Trump’s voice. It’s all the people who violated me.”

Mr Trump’s election followed a movement in which several women accused him of sexual misconduct that helped catalyze #MeToo. Ms Carroll attributes the movement to her own decision to move forward. In the civil complaint, she recounts watching accusers of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and many others tell their stories of harassment and rape. As her complaint puts it, she “sees how women end up changing the public conversation by saying ‘me too’ and demanding accountability.”

The jury must now resolve what the judge in the case, Lewis A. Kaplan of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, described in an earlier ruling as “a ‘he said, she said’ case.” Ms Carroll’s account of events was likely corroborated by two friends who she said she turned to immediately after the attack. Her account of Mr. Trump may also be backed up by the “Access Hollywood” tape, which a judge has included in evidence along with the testimony of two women who have accused Mr. Trump of non-consensual sex. Denied the allegations.

The testimony of a rape accuser alone rarely convinces a jury, so this support, if not necessary, helps overcome what I call the credibility discount. Like most accusers, Ms. Carroll will need to overcome a huge barrier of faith. Even in civil cases like this one, where the standard of proof is far lower than in criminal proceedings, plaintiffs face an uphill battle.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers will employ tactics that are familiar at this point — because despite exploiting myths about abuse, they are often effective. With Mr. Trump not expected to testify at trial, his case is likely to hinge on attacks on Ms. Carroll’s own claims. The defense is likely to insist that she welcomed the bantering exchange that led the two into the dressing room, while Ms Carroll’s recall in her complaint that she “had been laughing” after the incident could have been used to This consensual version of events is supported.

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