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A Step to End Impunity: The Verdict for E. Jean Carroll

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By Cheryl Thomas

In that infamous 2016 video, when Donald Trump said he might start kissing a woman that he and television host Billy Bush were about to meet, he added, “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the [p—-]. You can do anything.”

Well, finally, maybe not.

Trump’s belief in male entitlement to women’s bodies is behind more than 25 accusations of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment since the 1970s.  But the problem goes far beyond Donald Trump – the presumption that men have a right to women’s bodies permeates history.  

Thanks to unrelenting activism of women and men around the world, and the courage of the women in the #metoo movement, the tide is turning against those who believe they can assault women with impunity.  The verdict in favor of E. Jean Carroll is a hopeful sign that men who sexually assault women will be held accountable and that their attempts to smear the character of their accusers will not save them.  

I’ve talked about the verdict with some of my friends, and several said that if they had been Ms. Carroll 30 years ago, they probably would not have reported the incident to the police at the time.  Why?  Because they knew they would not be believed or that nothing would be done.  And they were likely right.  

Thanks to a law passed in New York last year that allows women to take civil action against abusers, Ms. Carroll had her opportunity to seek justice. And she may sue again, given Trump’s post-trial defamation of her.

The verdict told would-be perpetrators of sexual abuse that they are out of step with the growing respect for women’s rights, and they will be held accountable.  Let’s hope that they are listening.  

Cheryl Thomas is the Founder and Executive Director of Global Rights for Women.