A few weeks ago, a federal lawsuit was filed in the state of New York naming Donald Trump as one of two alleged rapists of a 13 year old girl. Despite the gravity of the allegations, the lawsuit seems to have been largely ignored by mainstream media, with the exception of a very comprehensive piece in the Huffington Post written by Lisa Bloom, an attorney and legal analyst for NBC News.
A brief precis: ‘Jane Doe’, the plaintiff, alleges that in 1994 she was held as a sex slave in an apartment belonging to Jeffrey Epstein (the second defendant in the case). ‘Jane Doe’ alleges that on one occasion, Trump tied her to a bed, exposed himself and then “proceeded to forcibly rape” her. When she pleaded with him to stop, she says he struck her in the face and yelled that he would do what he wanted. ‘Jane Doe’ also alleges that Epstein vaginally and anally raped her following the assault by Trump, physically striking her in the head at one point while screaming at Trump that it was he, rather than Trump, who should have been the one to “take her virginity”.
For the record, Trump’s lawyer has dismissed the allegations as “categorically untrue, completely fabricated and politically motivated.” But as Bloom points out, there are compelling reasons for the mainstream media to at least consider them worthy of reporting. First, there’s the fact that Jeffrey Epstein is a convicted pedophile and Level 3 registered sex offender with a preference for underage girls. There is also the matter of his ongoing, documented friendship with Trump – just prior to Epstein’s conviction, Trump had this to say about the man he had known for 15 years: “Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it, Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”
But more concerning even than that is the fact that ‘Jane Doe’ claims to have a witness. ‘Tiffany Doe’ (both women have, with the court’s approval, exercised their right to anonymity for fear of retaliation given the high profile nature of the case) worked for a number of years for Epstein, and says part of her job was to lure underage girls to these aforementioned parties. In documents filed to the court, ‘Tiffany Doe’ says, “I personally witnessed four sexual encounters that the Plaintiff was forced to have with Mr. Trump during this period, including the fourth of these encounters where Mr. Trump forcibly raped her despite her pleas to stop.” She says she continues to live in “mortal fear” of Trump.
Untested though they may be, the allegations are damning. That by itself should be enough to have the mainstream media at least somewhat interested in reporting on them, never mind the fact they are being levelled against a person who may soon become the leader of the free world. Keeping in mind the fact that Trump, like anyone, is entitled to a presumption of innocence when facing criminal allegtions, the media still has an obligation to report on such matters. Why the silence? Is this just another form of the protection given to people with power, and powerful men in particular?
This protection manifests in the most extreme of cases to the more benign. Consider Roman Polanski, who admitted to drugging and raping a 13 year old girl in the 1970s before fleeing to Switzerland. In the intervening decades, he has continued to enjoy strong support from his peers and colleagues in Hollywood. There are the pedophile priests who have been coddled and protected throughout the years by the Catholic Church, the collective of whom are responsible for untold levels of trauma and violence against children. To a lesser degree, a soft landing is provided for politicians like Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton (the former of whom blithely harassed a number of women with unsolicited photographs of his penis and the latter of whom conducted a series of ‘affairs’ while maintaining the highest office in the world). Indeed, even though Bill was eventually impeached, it’s Hillary Rodham Clinton who’s shouldered the burden of blame for his actions.
These are the typical responses given when men with extraordinary power are alleged to have committed crimes of a sexual nature. They’re being set up. It’s a woman after his money. His opponents are trying to bring him down. Don’t forget the gleeful practice of pointing the finger at women who threaten powerful men’s careers – over 50 allegations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby, yet there are still countless people who claim it’s just a case of women trying to extort money from him. So it comes as no surprise that, in addition to some of the expected claims of ‘political conspiracy’, there are attempts to divert attention away from Trump and back onto the supposed transgressions of Rodham Clinton, his likely opponent for the presidential race.
One popular claim is that Rodham Clinton not only volunteered to defend a child rapist in the 1980s, but later laughed about knowing he was guilty on live television. This is not entirely accurate. She did defend a man alleged to have raped a 12 year old, but she was assigned the case against her wishes. The trial ended in a plea deal according to the wishes of the plaintiff and her mother. And Rodham Clinton did not laugh about her success later on – rather, she laughed (ruefully) at how the defendant’s successful use of a polygraph machine to claim his innocence showed her unreliable the method was. Ironically, just as Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence before guilt in a court of law, so too are any of Rodham Clinton’s clients. As distasteful as I sometimes find the criminal justice system’s approach to sexual assault cases, it remains true that everyone is also entitled to a defence and this means there must be attorneys to provide it for them.
Regardless, what does Rodham Clinton’s history have to do with Trump’s? It’s absurd to suggest that the behaviour of one person negates that of someone else, especially where alleged child abuse is concerned. Allegations of child rape are a serious matter. Trump may well be entitled to that presumption of innocence before any civil proceedings conclude, but he is not entitled to immunity from investigation because some people dislike the other candidate more.
Between now and November 8, the media will be reporting on Trump as a potential presidential candidate. Let’s hope they consider the potential for abuse of power to be something worth looking into.
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