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Following a trial where he relied on a debunked myth about rape, Trump has been deemed guilty of assaulting and defaming E. Jean Carroll.


That has been determined by a jury in Manhattan former president Donald Trump abused journalist E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s and defamed her by saying she had lied about the assault. The jury, which announced its verdict on May 9, 2023, awarded Carroll $5 million in damages.

Trump’s legal team ended closing arguments in his May 8 rape trial by saying that Carroll lied about the alleged decades-old attack.

Carroll served one trial in 2022claim that Trump had raped and then slandered her with his denials.

Trump has always denied that the meeting with Carroll ever took place.

During cross-examination of Carroll, Trump’s attorney, Joseph Tacopina, suggested that she did not come forward with her allegations until 2019:because of her contempt for Trump’s politics and because she wanted to sell copies of her book.”

Tacopina also asked Carroll, 79, why she didn’t scream, call the police or to remind the date and time of the alleged attack, which she says took place in a dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in 1996.

“I’m telling you, he raped mewhether I screamed or not,” Carroll said in court on April 27.

Like a researcher who has studied violence against women for more than two decades, I can tell you that this way of asking questions reinforced common sexual assault myths that were perpetuated in other high-profile sexual assault cases, such as that of comedian Bill Cosby and Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

It’s a general refrain, but one without merit.

E. Jean Carroll, shown at her home in upstate New York in 2019.
Eva Deitch for The Washington Post/Getty Images

Myths about responses to sexual assault

For decades, researchers have documented myths about sexual assault, also known as sexual assault myths about rape – which are both general and persistent.

Like the question addressed to Carroll, rape myths imply that “real” assault can be distinguished from false allegations based on how women reacted to the assault.

Myths, for example, that ‘real’ victims fight back and immediately call the police are common. Rape myths are so widespread that they can even be traced in people with training in sexual assault, such as law enforcement officers And crime lab staff. Rape myths, in turn, have serious implications for decision-making in cases, including whether or not to commit them cases are rejected.

However, contrary to the myths, people react in different ways when they experience traumatic events, including sexual assault. Sure, some people fight back, like Carroll testified that she did. However, other people may come across as conciliatory or passive. The range of reactions people have during traumatic events, also called flee, fight or freezecan be influenced by automatic processes, such as stress hormones released in response to threat.

People also differ in how they behave after being assaulted, such as whether or not they call the police or seek medical help. Carroll testified on May 2, regarding her behavior, saying, “Women like me have learned and trained to keep our chins up and not complain.”

“The fact that I never went to the police is not surprising for someone my age,” said Carroll, who was about 52 years old at the time of the alleged attack.

It’s actually not surprising for women of many ages. Indeed, one big majority of the rapes are not reported to the police, even though there are people may disclose what happened to friends, family, or other casual people in their lives.

Myths about reactions to disclosure

Women have many reasons for disclosure – or not reveal – sexual harassment and assault, including to try to avoid harming others, seek safety or get help.

After all, research shows that assault can take a serious toll about all aspects of survivors’ lives, from their physical and psychological health to their careers and education. Despite the cost to survivors, those seeking monetary compensation are often met with suspicion.

In 2015, a team of researchers considered responses to sexual violence in a judicial setting by asking mock jurors read almost identical summaries of a sexual assault lawsuit.

The descriptions were the same, except for one important detail: About half of the participants also learned that the victim had filed a civil suit to try to get monetary compensation. The mock jurors who read about the civil suit were less likely to say they would convict the defendant.

They also found the defendant more credible, and the victim less so, seeing her instead as greedy and manipulative.

A white man in a dark blue suit walks down a sidewalk, flanked by a woman in a beige jacket and another man in a suit.
Joseph Tacopina, attorney for former President Donald Trump, will appear before a courthouse in Manhattan on April 27, 2023.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Women rarely lie about sexual assault

People questions regularly the credibility of women when they disclose sexual harassment and assault, and imply that women lie about sexual assault.

However, evidence consistently shows that false reports of sexual assault are extremely rare. For example, two different research teams analyzed reports of sexual assault that were reported to the The Los Angeles Police Department and a big one university police. Using careful criteria for coding allegations and evidence, the teams estimated that only 4.5% to 5.9% of cases were false.

Yet the vast majority of sexual assault cases reported to police do not result in convictions. According to research funded by the National Institute of Justice, only about 6% of sexual assault cases a report to the police led to an admission of guilt.

In 2017, when my research team interviewed In more than 200 women who had been sexually assaulted, we found that friends and family often reacted negatively to revelations. They treated survivors differently, focused on how the attack affected them rather than the survivors, took control away from survivors, and even blamed survivors for the attacks.

In 2019, when another research team came together 51 studies like ours about reactions to women’s disclosures, they found a consistent pattern: Women who received more negative reactions when they disclosed their assaults had worse mental health outcomes, such as more severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. This pattern suggests that when women reveal they are trying to get help and support.

When that hope for support is instead suppressed by negative reactions, women’s psychological pain is worse.

Carroll put it like this as she described the impact of negative reactions to her revelation: “It hit me and it put me down because I lost my reputation. No one looked at me the same. It was gone. Even people who knew me looked at me with pity in their eyes, and the people who had no opinion now thought I was a liar and hated me.”

This is an update to an article originally published on May 9, 2023.

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