About half an hour after I woke up this morning, I looked at my phone and this was the headline I saw: “Donald Trump Accused of Sexual Assault by Former Model Amy Dorris.”
Thursday’s story starts, as it must, with the requisite portrait of Amy Dorris herself, looking like a former model while wearing a smart blazer and staring off in the distance, obviously distressed but presenting herself as a witness. The story unfurls like so many of the dozens of other stories women have offered up, and everyone else has borne witness to, about Trump allegedly assaulting them: She was with Trump in some kind of social setting. He was married (to Marla Maples, the second of his three wives); she was with her then-boyfriend, Jason Binn. Nothing flirtatious happened to really prepare her. There was just a moment where a woman ended up alone with Donald Trump, and he started to consume her as if she were an offering on a buffet table.
“I was in his grip, and I couldn’t get out of it,” Dorris said, adding: “I don’t know what you call that when you’re sticking your tongue just down someone’s throat. But I pushed it out with my teeth. I was pushing it. And I think I might have hurt his tongue.”
Amy Dorris is very clear in her interview with the Guardian that this is not rape (though Trump has also been credibly accused of rape). Instead it is I don’t know what you call that when you’re sticking your tongue just down someone’s throat. There really should be a shorter name for it by now, since so many people have had to describe the same thing: the blunt, abusive action of the man who also said, “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” He doesn’t really mean “just kiss,” as we all know.
How many more times, in how many more ways, can we be told that other people simply are not real to him? What’s left to say about the uncaring depravity of this person’s soul? What’s left to say after the president of the United States responds to an allegation of rape with “she’s not my type”—as in, I couldn’t have raped her because this woman is not hot enough for me, said the president of the United States—and then wrangles the Department of Justice into defending him because he was performing his presidential duties when he said that? (If the DOJ manages to take over, the case will be dismissed, because he benefits from the powers of the presidency.)
In response to Dorris’ accusation, and in addition to denying that this took place, the Guardian reports, Trump’s lawyers “said it seemed incredible that Dorris would voluntarily choose to be in the vicinity of Trump, at the US Open and the Versace memorial, in the days following the alleged assault. … Trump’s lawyers also questioned why Dorris sat next to Trump at the Versace memorial, when she could have sat the other side of Binn.” (As Dorris explains, she was on a trip with Binn, who described Trump as his best friend, and though she did call multiple people after the alleged assault to tell them what had happened, she did not feel like she could interrupt the plans. The Guardian confirmed her account with the individuals she confided in at the time.)
It is exhausting to note this, yet again, but: What is in fact incredible is that it is always the woman’s fault—for not being traumatized enough, for not being reactive enough, for not being attractive enough—rather than the man’s fault, for assaulting women.
Dorris is the 26th woman to accuse Donald Trump of sexual assault. She said she wanted to speak up because she wants her daughters, twins who are 13 years old, to know that it is not OK for anyone to treat another person like this. She said she’d had enough of watching him lie about the other women who had told similar stories about him assaulting them. “I’m sick of him getting away with this,” she told the Guardian. “I’m tired of being quiet. It’s kind of cathartic. I just want to get this out. And I want people to know that this is the man, this is our president. This is the kind of thing he does and it’s unacceptable.”
It is unacceptable, except it has been accepted. He has gotten away with it for years already, and he is getting away with it still, today. The getting away with it—it’s the reason he keeps doing anything he wants, because he has never faced consequences for any of it, so when you manage the contortion of putting your own brain into the inside of his world, you can see the sick logic in why he behaves the way that he does. He does not have the capacity to feel bad about what harm he may have inflicted in other people. Harm is simply how he interacts with the world: He takes, they lose. When the party that supports him chose him to lead it, it was already recalibrating its politics around simply harming its opponents. They are allies, and so Trump continues to be insulated from consequences.
It is exhausting and demoralizing to live inside of this universe, to watch people be treated so callously. It hurts to wake up and see that yet another woman has credibly accused the president of sexual assault, and know that the only thing to watch for next is the way in which he will dismiss her. The situation has degraded all of the norms, certainly, but I worry it has degraded our humanity too. I am so angry, so much of the time, and there is a constant bombardment of new reasons to be angry, and very little to do about it (vote, yes, of course). Consider this, reported by the Washington Post on Wednesday:
Trump on Wednesday claimed that the United States would have a low covid-19 death rate if it weren’t for “blue states” with Democratic governors.
The president made the assertion during a news briefing where he defended his administration’s response to the pandemic. The country’s progress in battling the novel coronavirus, he said, comes “despite the fact that the blue states had had tremendous death rates.”
“If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at,” Trump said. “We’re really at a very low level.”
Of the 15 states with the highest covid-19 death tolls, eight have Democratic governors and seven have Republican governors.
At least 193,000 people in the United States have died of covid-19, and nearly 6.6 million cases have been reported in the country.
We have lived inside this for so long that, as I read that Washington Post blurb, I had to actually remind myself that the president is supposed to be the president for everyone—that that is the point of the United States of America. This posture, to blame part of the country you are supposed to be running for the unnecessary death it has suffered at your hands, has its roots in the same pathology that allows a man to stick his tongue down an unsuspecting woman’s throat and keep going even after she says no. It’s embarrassing and self-absorbed, yes, but underneath all of that, it is deeply inhumane. And yes, we might vote him out in a few weeks, but I keep wondering how that can possibly be enough.