In a more normal time, if a woman alleged the man who would become the U.S. president kissed her without consent, it might be a major national story meriting weeks of intense news coverage.
But the current president is Donald Trump, who has now been accused of sexual misconduct and harassment by more than twenty women, who was caught on tape boasting about groping, and who was elected to office anyway. So when Alva Johnson, a former Trump campaign staffer, revealed last month that Trump had forcibly kissed her prior to his election, her name was added to the long list, and the news cycle mostly moved on.
Other women who have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct and misbehavior are disappointed he has faced no repercussions, several told HuffPost. They feel as if many people simply don’t care. They also recognize there are so many accusations of wrongdoing by Trump at this point, it’s hard to keep track. But they support Johnson — and would still encourage other possible victims to come forward.
Rachel Crooks was not surprised to see Johnson’s claim because “we’ve seen this type of behavior from [Trump] over decades,” she told HuffPost in an email. She has alleged Trump forcibly kissed her without her consent more than ten years ago, when she was 22.
“I was also sad because we’ve let Alva Johnson down,” she added. “If our society would’ve held Trump accountable for his actions, she may not have had to endure this.”
Johnson claims in her lawsuit, filed last month against Trump in federal court, that in August of 2016 when she was working as a staffer for Trump’s campaign, he forcibly kissed her on the mouth. She tried to avoid the kiss by turning her head away, and the incident left her confused and humiliated. Johnson, who is black, also says she experienced race and gender discrimination and was underpaid compared to white and male employees.
I was also sad because we’ve let Alva Johnson down. If our society would’ve held Trump accountable for his actions, she may not have had to endure this.
Rachel Crooks, a woman who said Trump kissed her without consent
Less than two months after Trump allegedly kissed Johnson without consent, The Washington Post published the Access Hollywood tape, where Trump bragged that he could grab women “by the pussy.” Many women subsequently went public about their own interactions with Trump. Johnson was horrified by the tape, according to her lawsuit, because the conduct Trump boasted of was so similar to what she had experienced. She quit his campaign shortly afterward, the lawsuit says.
“It seems right now we’re going backward,” Johnson told Teen Vogue in an interview published this month. “This wasn’t appropriate for a long time. Now the most powerful man in the world is making fun of people who are coming forward [about sexual abuse], calling them liars even though their stories are so consistent.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Johnson’s accusation “absurd on its face.” Trump has repeatedly denied allegations of sexual misconduct against him. “You are a disgusting human being,” he told a New York Times reporter who questioned him about some of the women’s claims. He dismissed his comments in the Access Hollywood tape as “locker-room banter.” He also in 2016 threatened to sue his accusers. That never happened.
It was only a matter of time before someone from Trump’s campaign or administration had a similar experience to what other women have been speaking about for years now, said Samantha Holvey, a former Miss North Carolina USA.
Holvey said that when she met Trump at an event prior to the Miss USA pageant in 2006, he eyed her like a “piece of meat.” She had “never felt so objectified and dirty,” she said. A few days later, she said, she was in her robe in the hair and makeup area, and he walked in, in a way that felt to her like he “wanted to exert his dominance and power.” (Trump has bragged about getting away with going backstage when contestants were getting dressed, though his campaign generally denied claims that he did so.)
“He’s been sexually assaulting and harassing women for decades with no repercussions so why would he stop now?” Holvey told HuffPost in an email.
Although some women have accused Trump of behavior that fits the definition of groping, many of the reported incidents occurred a long time ago, and the statutes of limitations have expired. Johnson hopes to get justice, not just for herself, but all the victims, her attorney, Hassan Zavareei, told HuffPost a phone interview.
He’s been sexually assaulting and harassing women for decades with no repercussions so why would he stop now?
Samantha Holvey, a former Miss North Carolina USA
Most of her friends and family, even strangers on the street, have been encouraging to Johnson, Zavareei said. But “Trump’s behavior and bad actions have become so normalized, that it barely registers on the public consciousness,” he added.
Part of the reason Johnson wanted to come forward, he added, was to say, “it’s not normal, it’s not okay.” He raised the question of how the public might react if the accused were another president.
The living former president whose alleged conduct perhaps comes closest is Bill Clinton, who was repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct and whose affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky has drawn fresh scrutiny over the unequal power dynamics. In Clinton’s case, he denied the misconduct allegations, however, the Republican-led House of Representatives moved to impeach him.
The climate is different now. The #MeToo movement has ousted powerful men from their jobs and led to legal repercussions in some cases: Ex-film mogul Harvey Weinstein could face life in prison if convicted of sex offenses; Bill Cosby has already been convicted of aggravated indecent assault. Women who’ve accused Trump of sexual misconduct would also like to see him face consequences — but they aren’t optimistic.
“It would be nice to see something happen to him — it would be nice that he doesn’t get re-elected,” said Kristin Anderson, who claims Trump reached under her skirt and groped her at a nightclub in the early 1990s. The fact that he got elected the first time, despite the allegations against him, shows some people, “really don’t care about other people’s abuse. If it were them, they would care,” she told HuffPost in a phone interview.
She’d like to see, at a minimum, Trump apologize and change his ways, she said. But based on what Johnson says happened to her, it looks like “he’s still up to it,” she added.
The women HuffPost spoke with said they would still encourage women to come forward with their experiences.
“The more people who do it, the more it shows — it should at least — what kind of character he is,” said another woman who has publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct but asked not to be named because she fears the consequences for her family if she continues to speak out.
For women who speak out, “whether he’s held accountable or not, you’ve released it,” Anderson said, noting she feels that it’s women speaking up for themselves that’s the most important part. “It’s very healing, and that’s what counts.”