BY SUSAN ESTRICH
Take the case of Roy Moore: After numerous women accused Moore of sexual assault, sexual misconduct and child molestation, every Republican I knew was rooting against him, hoping to spare the party huge embarrassment. But the president supported Moore for a seat in the United States Senate nonetheless.
Then there was Rob Porter. Allegations of domestic abuse came up in his FBI background check and resulted in his not getting a top-level security clearance – but not in his losing his job as a top White House aide. And the White House still can’t get its story straight about why it took so long to fire him; about what Gen. John Kelly and the president knew and when they knew it; about why the president keeps defending the man in public, while his aides leak stories about how Trump really thinks Porter is a “sicko.” [He’s not the only one.]
Then over the weekend, as yet another aide resigned in the face of credible claims by his ex-wife that he beat her, the president spoke out on behalf of the men accused of abuse, without even a single word of sympathy for the victims: “People’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
Actually, there is, Mr. President. It is due process, including the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that has made rape cases so difficult to prove in court; and it is the knowledge that their complaints would not be taken seriously that has enforced, on so many women, a terrible burden of silence and guilt, leading rape to be one of the most underreported crimes.
Of course it is unfair to ruin a person’s life with a false allegation. Rape is a serious crime, but innocence is still a defense.
But let me tell you what it’s like to live with the memory of rape for 40 years. I think I have done everything I can to take life’s lemons and build a lemonade stand. As a clerk for the great Judge J. Skelly Wright, I wrote the opinion overturning the rape corroboration requirement in the District of Columbia. “This one’s for you,” he said, because I had told him the story of what happened to me, how I had been raped the day before my college graduation.
When I started teaching, I introduced rape into the curriculum, and I told my own story so my students would know that even a fancy and strong Harvard Law professor might be a victim – that they need not be ashamed. I wrote and wrote: a law review article called “Rape,” which a Brigham Young University student wrote me about in appreciation just today; a book called Real Rape, which is still selling copies 32 years later; and so many articles and speeches. I held training sessions on the topic. I was on the founding board of the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, created by a courageous survivor.
But this has been my secret for 40 years: It still hurts. I still get scared. Me, too. My mother told me 40 years ago that I shouldn’t tell anyone, because no one would help me or want me. I know many women who still believe that. Could they be right?
So yes, Mr. President, I believe in due process – for victims, as well.
One of the reasons the “#MeToo” movement has struck a chord so strongly is precisely because of the man in the Oval Office: not because he’s been accused of having consensual extramarital relationships [that’s Melania’s business] but because he’s been repeatedly accused of forcing himself on women, treating them like toilet paper he could grab and throw away, and paying them off to shut up. So while we’re on the subject of abusers in the White House …
You, too, Mr. President.
– Susan Estrich’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer