On Tuesday, writer and columnist E. Jean Carroll filed court documents that state her intent to sue Donald Trump for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, The Guardian reported. Her decision follows the passage of the Adult Survivors Act in New York, signed by Governor Kathy Hochul this past May, which will open up a one-year “lookback window” for survivors over the age of 18 to sue their abusers, regardless of when a sexual assault occurred. The act, which temporarily lifts the statutes of limitations for sexual assault in New York, will go into effect on November 24.
Carroll has been wrapped up in an ongoing defamation lawsuit against Trump since 2019, after he called her a liar for claiming that he sexually assaulted her, an incident that she first recounted in an excerpt from her 2019 book What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal. Published by The Cut, the excerpt provided an in-depth account of an encounter with the ex-president in late 1995 or early 1996, when Carroll said he forced himself on her in a Bergdorf Goodman’s dressing room and briefly penetrated her. Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying that Carroll is “totally lying” and that she is “not [his] type.”
Carroll is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from the defamation lawsuit, according to the Washington Post. Trump’s attempts to counter-sue have been rejected thus far. Carroll’s lawyer wrote in the new court documents that Trump has yet to produce any evidence that the court requested from him.
Statutes of limitations have long been a technical deterrent to reporting sexual offenses—a legal roadblock that the Adult Survivors Act aims to temporarily address. Beyond this, there are many other reasons why survivors might not want to come forward with their stories of sexual assault and abuse, immediately after they occur or years later: the fear of not being believed, not wanting to be re-traumatized by the criminal justice system, and the threat of retaliation by their abuser come to mind.
In 2019, Carroll reflected on why she didn’t speak out sooner in a passage that echoed those worries:
Why haven’t I “come forward” before now?
Receiving death threats, being driven from my home, being dismissed, being dragged through the mud, and joining the 15 women who’ve come forward with credible stories about how the man grabbed, badgered, belittled, mauled, molested, and assaulted them, only to see the man turn it around, deny, threaten, and attack them, never sounded like much fun. Also, I am a coward.
Following the passage of the New York Child Victims Act in 2019, which opened a similar one-year lookback window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, the Adult Survivors Act will hopefully empower more survivors to explore avenues for justice—much like Carroll is planning to do as soon as the law permits.