A writer told a US civil trial Wednesday that an alleged sexual assault by Donald Trump three decades ago left her feeling “ashamed" and unable to have romantic relationships.
“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me," E. Jean Carroll said in Manhattan’s federal court, which is hearing a defamation and battery lawsuit against the former president.
The case is one in a series of legal challenges facing Trump as the 76-year-old Republican seeks a return to the White House.
Carroll, 79, has sued Trump alleging he sexually assaulted her in a changing room at the luxury Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the mid-1990s.
She also claims that Trump then defamed her when she went public with the allegations years later. Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations and has not been criminally charged.
The former Elle magazine columnist described to jurors how a chance encounter with Trump in the Manhattan store quickly turned violent.
She said that after Trump playfully asked her for advice on buying a women’s lingerie gift, he “shoved" her against the wall of the dressing room.
“All his weight (was) against my chest. He pulled down my tights. I was pushing him back," Carroll told jurors from the witness stand.
She first made the allegation in an excerpt from her book published by New York Magazine in 2019.
Asked why it took her more than 20 years to go public with her allegations, she responded: “I was frightened by Donald Trump. I was ashamed. I thought it was my fault."
Carroll filed the lawsuit late last year after a law took effect in New York that gave victims of sexual assault a one-year window to sue their alleged abusers decades after attacks may have occurred.
The suit accuses Trump of battery, “when he forcibly raped and groped" Carroll, and of defamation for a post that Trump made on his Truth Social platform in October where he referred to Carroll as a “complete con job."
“He lied and shattered my reputation. I’m here to get my life back," Carroll told the court.
“I know people have been through a lot worse but it left me unable to ever have a romantic life again," she added.
Before the testimony, judge Lewis Kaplan rebuked Trump for writing on Truth Social Wednesday that the trial is “a made-up scam" and Carroll’s lawyer a “political operative."
Kaplan said the comments were “entirely inappropriate" and suggested Trump was trying to influence jurors.
Carroll’s suit seeks unspecified damages for “significant pain and suffering, lasting psychological and pecuniary harms, loss of dignity and self-esteem, and invasion of her privacy." It also asks that Trump retract his comments.
Around a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. He has denied all the allegations and has never been prosecuted over any of them.
No criminal prosecution can stem from Carroll’s civil case but if Trump loses it will be the first time he has ever been held legally liable for an allegation of sexual assault.
Trump has provided sworn testimony in the case but is not expected to take the witness stand. The trial is likely to last one to two weeks.
In opening arguments Monday, Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina said there was no evidence of the assault and that Carroll was “abusing the system for money, for political reasons, and for status."
The case comes just weeks after Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts related to a hush-money payment made to a porn star just before the 2016 election.
Trump is also being investigated over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the southern state of Georgia, his alleged mishandling of classified documents taken from the White House and his involvement in the storming of the US Capitol by his supporters on January 6, 2021.