Ever since the tape came out, in which Donald Trump describes how he gropes and kisses women unbidden, women have been coming forward to describe Trump’s same behavior towards them. Trump has groped business partners, beauty pageant contestants, and even total strangers. The number of women who have come forward with very similar stories has climbed to nine.
On Thursday, another woman came out with a story about being sexually harassed by Donald Trump. Yoga instructor Karena Virginia says that she was at the US Open tennis tournament in 1998 when Trump approached her. She was waiting for her car when she heard Trump comment about her to the small group of men he was with.
“He said: ‘Hey look at this one. We haven’t seen her before.’ Mrs Virginia (said) that his words described her ‘as though I was an object rather than a person’. Then his hand touched the right inside of my breast. I was in shock. I flinched. Mr Trump then said to her: ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ I felt intimidated and I felt powerless.”
This account matches similar stories by the other women who say that Trump touched them, groped them and/or kissed them without their consent. They all mesh with Trump’s behavior as we have seen it ever since he shoved his way into the public eye.
Mrs. Virginia is being represented by powerhouse lawyer Gloria Allred. Since Ms. Allred is a supporter of Hillary Clinton, the Trump camp is trying to discredit her. Allred insists that the Clinton campaign is not working with her in her representation of Mrs. Virginia. She notes that, while there are no corroborating witnesses to the incident in question, Mrs. Virginia did recount the story to friends soon after, and her husband a bit later.
Trump spokesperson Jessica Ditto (what an appropriate name for a Trump yes-person) dismissed Mrs. Virginia’s claim as fiction:
“Discredited political operative Gloria Allred, in another coordinated, publicity seeking attack with the Clinton campaign, will stop at nothing to smear Mr. Trump. Give me a break. Voters are tired of these circus-like antics and reject these fictional stories and the clear efforts to benefit Hillary Clinton.”
As to why she chose now to speak up, Mrs. Virginia said that she felt it was her “duty” to speak out now and “tell the truth about what happened.” She shrugged off the personal attack from Trump that she knows is coming, remarking:
“Perhaps he will label me just another nasty woman.”
I have suffered five incidents of sexual harassment — all before I was 20 and twice by cousins — and I know exactly why Mrs. Virginia and the other women who accuse Trump chose now to come forward. The tape in which Trump described his entitled behavior towards women was enough to get one woman to come forward to confirm that this is how Trump operates. With one woman “out,” others felt more comfortable joining her, then more women added to their voices. This is because there is safety in numbers. These women knew that they would be dragged through the mud by Trump — and they have been. But, with other women there to back you up, it’s easier to bear such attacks.
Among my circle of friends, about 80% can tell of an incident when a man insinuated himself upon them. It could have been anything from an uninvited (and unnecessarily long) hug to rape. One of my friends — a highly respected professor, author and media historian — wrote a blog post about her experiences. She described incidents that happened to her during her distinguished career. She, too, understands why these women waited until now to speak about their humiliation at the (tiny) hands of Donald Trump. She writes that she knows “first-hand” about powerful men “thinking they have the right to treat a woman any way they want.” And “society still has a tendency to cast suspicion on the woman.”
Women who have been sexually harassed and abused often choose to remain silent. If they speak out, they run the risk of being treated as if they “asked for it.” They are minimized, belittled, told that it was their fault, put on trial for saying anything. After all, that man is a highly respected member of the community/fine man/celebrity. Why, he wouldn’t force himself on a woman without her signaling that it was welcomed.
We know better. We’ve seen (and heard) Trump’s boorish behavior. With ten women now saying that Trump acted like that towards them, on top of the Access Hollywood tape, it’s getting harder for the Trump camp to brush them off. It seems that every day we hear from another woman he has harassed. Fifteen days to go…
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