This week People is launching a new series—in print and on video—called “Women Speak Out.” It will be a series of interviews and profiles with women who have survived sexual assault and have come forward to seek justice—for their own sake, and for the sake of other women.
We are especially proud of the series because it comes from Natasha Stoynoff, who became world famous during the election when she wrote in People about being physically attacked by Donald Trump back in 2005. At the time, she was a writer at People, assigned to interview Trump (and his then-pregnant wife, Melania) at Mar-a-Lago. When Trump and Stoynoff were briefly alone, he suddenly shut the door “and within seconds he was pushing me against the wall and forcing his tongue down my throat,” wrote Stoynoff. A butler interrupted, and as Stoynoff tried to regain her composure, Trump told her, “You know we’re going to have an affair, don’t you?” Stoynoff felt ashamed and did not inform her bosses at People. Eleven years later, after Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced (and Trump was a presidential candidate) Stoynoff felt compelled to tell her story.
Watch Laura Dunn on the series People Features: Women Speak Out, available now, on the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to people.com/PEN, or download the PEN app on your favorite device.
Trump not only denied it, he slammed her on the campaign trail: “Look at her,” he said. “I don’t think so.” But Stoynoff became a symbol of strength to many others, particularly women who had endured sexual assault. “I’ve heard from hundreds of women—strangers, friends, acquaintances—telling me their stories,” says Stoynoff. “Most said they’d never told anyone before, usually out of fear or shame.” Stoynoff has continued to tell her story, and is now helping other women tell theirs.
Her first interview in the series is with Laura Dunn, who says she was sexually assaulted by two men when she was in college, but charges were never brought against them. In 2014 Dunn founded SurvJustice, a nonprofit that has helped scores of women report sexual assault and navigate the criminal justice system. In the coming weeks, Stoynoff will profile other inspiring survivors making their voices heard. Says Stoynoff: “I’m hoping that the great group of brave women we champion in this series will encourage others to be brave as well.”