The list of powerful men accused of sexual harassment gets longer by the day, triggered by the Harvey Weinstein scandal. From Hollywood, it has spread to news media, sports and politics. The likes of Kevin Spacey, Mark Halperin and Roy Moore, et al, hog the headlines daily. Yet, one man is impervious to it all. Donald Trump, sitting president of the United States, brags about his sexual misconducts and being able to get away with it. So why isn’t there a ruckus about it?
Is it because he is now the highest official of the land? Then he should be set as an example that no man is beyond the law. Bill Clinton was impeached related to his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, because in a federal court, the president is not immune from charges for his personal acts.
Trump’s penchant for objectifying women and making sexist remarks is nothing new. He did it as a businessman and owner of beauty pageants, during his campaign, and now as sitting president of the United States. He also has a habit of kissing and groping women without warning and sans their consent.
The president’s accusers came out in droves during the presidential campaign. Prior to that, his first wife, Ivana, had claimed in their divorce proceedings that Trump raped her in 1989. Jill Harth, a business associate, filed a $125 million lawsuit against Trump in 1997. Both cases were settled. Then in May 2016, two reporters of The New York Times wrote an article about their interviews with 50 women who had been the subjects of Trump’s sexual harassments. Their portrayals of their experiences were detailed in all their sordidness. The impartiality of the article (it also told of the women who said Trump supported their endeavors and had utmost respect for them) added to the credence of the report, belying the denials of Trump’s camp.
The sexual advances that Trump made on a number of unwilling women were revealed when the victims spoke out, angry at his negation of his alleged sexual assaults. This denial was uttered publicly, during the October 2016 second presidential debate.
At different periods in the same year, numerous other women also came forward to tell their own stories, corroborated by neutral people, friends and acquaintances who either witnessed the incidents or had been told by the women after the instances of groping and touching happened. Contestants of Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, beauty pageants owned by Trump, also told of his dressing-room visits while they were in various stages of undress.
Understandably, Trump and his lobbyists fought back, hitting the Clinton camp and calling the claims politically motivated. They must have convinced the voters because when the November elections came, Trump shockingly won.
But one woman isn’t about to concede defeat. Summer Zervos, a former contestant of The Apprentice, sued Trump in January for defamation, after Trump tweeted about her being a liar. This, after Zervos in October 2016 made public her experience of sexual harassment from the then Republican candidate, after hearing the Access Hollywood tape with Billy Bush. Her lawyers also subpoenaed the Trump campaign team for all documents on women alleging sexual assault from their boss. The president’s lawyers are trying to get the suit dismissed. To date, litigation is still ongoing.
But what happened to those women who spoke out in October when the election campaign was at its peak? Why aren’t we hearing anything more about them? The reason is simple enough. Trump won the elections, in spite of these women’s claims of sexual assaults. Which may imply that what he did to them were perceived by the voters as a minor matter compared to his duty to lead the most powerful country in the world. His winning is a tacit dismissal of the women’s allegations. Moreover, their jobs can be lost and careers destroyed for speaking out. And they will forever be looking over their shoulders, anxious about the consequences of their boldness. Hence, the silence.
The Zervos case is worth watching as it unfolds. Summer Zervos has the well-known women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred behind her. Alone, she wouldn’t be as brave. A subpoena of all documents related to sexual misconduct allegations which are in the possession of Trump’s campaign team will encourage the women to once again break their silence and shed light on Trump’s predatory sexual behavior and how his people have handled them.