Listening to What Trump’s Accusers Have Told Us

A couple of weeks ago, as the Harvey Weinstein story continued to spool out across the news, I surveyed the growing pile of allegations—the horrific and familiar tale of an angry, wealthy, egotistical man with a casual habit of treating young women as if they were blow-up dolls. Remarkably, the right things were happening. Weinstein was being disgraced and disowned, and his accusers applauded for their bravery. Like many women, I felt simultaneously galvanized, vindicated, dispirited, and exhausted. A year before—to the day, I realized—I’d been assembling similar stories about Donald Trump.

The public narrative of Trump’s sexually predatory behavior begins in 1993, with Harry Hurt’s book “The Lost Tycoon,” which included details from a 1990 divorce deposition in which Ivana Trump described her husband violently raping her in Trump Tower, in a fit of anger over a botched scalp surgery. In a statement provided to Hurt, Ivana walked back her claim without denying it; she didn’t mean that Trump raped her in a “literal or criminal” sense, she said. The story reappeared in May, 2016, when the Times published accounts from two women describing nonconsensual encounters with Trump, and then it flared fully back to life in October of that year, with the “Access Hollywood” tape, a recording of a 2005 conversation in which Trump bragged about habitually committing sexual assault. By the end of October, twenty women had gone on the record to describe Trump’s sexual misconduct. Twelve of them recounted being physically violated, corroborating Trump’s own description of his behavior—he grabbed women by the pussy, he said to Billy Bush, because he could.

I reread the piece I wrote last year about all of this, and it felt a little humiliating. It was clear that I had been so upset, and so full of trust in the weight of moral narrative, that I felt sure Trump would not be able to win the Presidency. And, over the past year, I realized, I had also allowed myself to forget the sheer repulsiveness of some of Trump’s offhand comments about women: that he told his friends to “be rougher” with their wives, that he seemed to regularly joke about dating teen-agers. I recently shared the piece on Twitter and received more than two hundred replies, many of which asked the same sort of question: Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this? Why don’t these women press charges against the President? Why don’t they get together and sue him? Where are all these accusers now?

A few of Trump’s accusers have spoken to the media since the Weinstein story broke. Natasha Stoynoff, a writer for People who last year described Trump pushing her against a wall and forcibly kissing her, in 2005, at Mar-a-Lago, wrote an op-ed for USA Today describing an encounter during her college years with another man, an Oscar-nominated actor who grabbed her and said, “I’m going to —- you so hard, you’ll scream like a whore.” That experience, Stoynoff wrote, “was a factor in why I didn’t report the Trump incident when it happened.” After both incidents, she explained, she’d been afraid that the perpetrator would ruin her career if she spoke out. Jessica Leeds, who told the Times, last year, that Trump groped her on a plane in the eighties, did an interview with Slate a few weeks ago. “I’m truly sorry that I didn’t make more of an impact, that we all didn’t make more of an impact,” she said. “But as the man says himself, he could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and his supporters wouldn’t care.” Temple Taggart, a former Miss USA contestant who says that Trump kissed her inappropriately twice.