Donald Trump's Sexual Assault Accusers Demand Justice in the #MeToo Era: 'We Were Forgotten'
The recent accusations of sexual misconduct against a long list of powerful men in Hollywood and other industries have been widely believed — and led to resignations, loss of careers and other fallout.
Meanwhile, some of the women who accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment or assault during the presidential campaign wonder when the president might finally pay a price for what he allegedly did to them.
“Things just seem to fall off of Trump, I’m extremely disappointed,” says Jessica Leeds, 75, who alleges Trump tried to kiss her, fondle her breasts and put his hand up her skirt while on a flight to New York in the early 1980s.
Their stories — like the harrowing one PEOPLE writer Natasha Stoynoff shared of Trump allegedly attacking her in 2005 by pushing her up against a wall at Mar-a- Lago and shoving his tongue down her throat — are backed up in most cases by co-workers, friends or family members.
And then there is Trump’s own words. In early October of last year came the infamous video showing Trump boasting to Billy Bush in 2005 of sexually assaulting women, that because he’s a star he can “grab them by the pussy.” Days later, Trump denied he ever did those things during the second presidential debate and dismissed the comments as “locker room talk.”
In the weeks that followed, many women alleged on the record that Trump had touched, grabbed or kissed them without their permission. Over the course of his campaign, more than 10 would come forward.
“I feel this issue has been ‘on hold’ all year, but not forgotten,” says Stoynoff in an email. “It’s been simmering on the stove with the lid on, like a pressure cooker. But now the heat’s on and it’s going to boil and the lid is going to blast off.”
That blast off may come with help from a defamation lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, a former Apprentice contestant who has alleged Trump began kissing her very aggressively and put his hand on her breast without her consent in 2007.
Zervos filed the suit after Trump repeatedly called his accusers liars. Through her attorney, Gloria Allred, she declined to be interviewed for this story.
Norm Eisen, former chief White House ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama, says the lawsuit is “critically important” because “the president’s alleged offenses against women, of sexualharassment, sexual assault, are very serious, much more serious than many of those that have resulted in people losing their jobs.
“That should get a full and fair examination,” Eisen says, “and at the moment that lawsuit is the best vehicle we have to do that.”
Trump, meanwhile, has called the ongoing legal case against him “totally fake news. It’s just fake. It’s fake. It’s made-up stuff, and it’s disgraceful.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, his attorney Marc Kasowitz says the lawsuit is “based on allegations of events that never occurred.”
Trump himself has also denied all allegations against him, tweeting last year that the accusations are “100% fabricated and made-up charges.” He also called the charges “false allegations and outright lies” while on the campaign trail last fall.
Stoynoff says Trump should apologize and issue a statement saying “that we are not liars.”
“For Trump and his press secretary to continue to push the false agenda that the women are liars and continue to so cavalierly defame private citizens is outrageous and improper.”
Florida resident Melinda McGillivray, 38, tells PEOPLE that Trump gave her rear end “a grab” while she was helping a photographer friend at an event at Mar-a-Lago in 2003.
During this last year, she says, “I feel like we were forgotten about and there was no justice, but I do feel he will have his day in court.”
She is also “appalled” that a growing numbers of Republicans seem to believe the women accusing Roy Moore (who also repeatedly denied all charges against him) but don’t appear to believe Trump’s accusers — or are simply ignoring their claims.
“It’s disturbing,” McGillivray says in a text, “that many of Trump’s diehard supporters are so stubborn that they can’t seem to come to terms with the reality that their president is just as guilty as Roy Moore.”