Why E. Jean Carroll’s Voice is More Important Than a Scream

New York Daily News April 27, 2023 E. J Carroll Testimony

“He raped me whether I screamed or not.” E. Jean Carroll on cross-examination.

She didn’t scream.

Real rape victims scream.

I was raped.


I did not scream either time.


This is just one of several sexual assault myths perpetrated by the perpetrator Donald Trump in his flaccid attempt to undermine E. Jean Carroll’s testimony about her allegations of rape.

“She didn’t scream?” Trump wrote incredulously of Carroll on Truth Social. “There are no witnesses? Nobody saw this? She never made a police complaint?”

Each of his claims are tired old tropes. These harmful misconceptions and assumptions about rape victims and their response to terror have long been used by defense attorneys to discredit them.

It makes me want to scream.

Once and for all… screaming is not a legal requirement to prove rape.

Coping Mechanisms

Not all victims shriek, and not all fight back. Not all run. They can’t. There often is an emotional reason a woman doesn’t. She shuts down. It is the brain’s safety measure for survival.

Most have heard of “fight or flight” which is a way our bodies respond to threatening stressful situations. The body gears up to either fight back or flee the situation. But sometimes the sudden release of high-level stress hormones triggers an entirely different reaction to terror- to freeze. It can last for only a few moments or for longer periods of time.

Freezing is the brain’s response to detecting danger.

It is an autonomic response which means it happens automatically without conscious thought. You don’t get to pause and think through different options.  It literally takes over executive functioning around decision-making, memory, and movement.

Your system is in shock and you are literally frozen. Silenced.

In 1996 Jean Carroll didn’t scream but she did fight back. After Trump slammed her against a wall in the department store dressing room, yanked down her tights, and vaginally penetrated her, she kneed him and fled.

More than many rape victims do.

“I was extremely confused and suddenly realized that what I thought was happening was not happening,” Ms. Carroll said. She said she didn’t want to anger Mr. Trump, explaining, “I didn’t want to make a scene.”

Keeping Quiet

E. Jean Carroll outside Manhattan Court April ,2023

E. Jean Carroll

The day started with Carroll describing how she was raised in Indiana in a family that prized a cheerful attitude and a positive outlook on life, where she was taught to move past unhappy things and act as if they didn’t happen.

That resonated deeply for me.

“Move on, forget about it.” I was told when I was 19 and viciously sexually assaulted on a warm summer night in the balsam-scented woods of suburban N.J.

“Put it out of your mind, and let it go,” was the advice I got when I was attacked at knifepoint and raped in my Manhattan apartment at 24.

“Move on, and leave it in your past where it belongs,” was the oft-time comment said by well-meaning folks when I eventually revealed my childhood sexual abuse.

But the past is always present if you are a trauma survivor. And when trauma happens, the past bounces back to life in blooming color.  You do not move on. But you do need to use your voice.


E. Jean Carroll outside Manhattan Court April, 2023

E. Jean Carroll outside Manhattan Court April, 2023

E. Jean Caroll admits she did not scream. But she is now relating a tale she said she had waited decades to tell.

I’m here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen. He lied and shattered my reputation, and I’m here to try and get my life back,” Carroll told jurors.

She never pursued criminal charges and said she would have kept the accusation secret forever if not for the #MeToo movement which empowered women to speak up in the wake of sexual assault claims against Harvey Weinstein in 2017.

After testifying for several hours, Carroll’s attorney asked her if she had regretted going public with her story. Carroll paused but then attempted to answer.

“I regretted it about 100 times, but in the end,” Carroll said, pausing as she broke down into tears, “being able to get my day in court…I’m crying, but I got to tell my story in court.”

She didn’t scream in the dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman in 1996. But she is using her voice now in a court of law.

Sometimes a determined voice is louder than any scream.

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




  1. Anyone who has doubts about the plaintiff in this case should read what you have written. Along with everyone else. You are a beacon of light.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sally, I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’m so sorry it happens to any of us. Me too. I had the same “freeze” response. It’s so common. Rape trials are an outrage, I’m so sorry she has to go through this. I imagine–like us–women watching right now are watching so she doesn’t have to feel alone. I’m sorry you were alone.


    • Thank you for your compassionate understanding and I’m so deeply sorry this is an experience you have suffered through as well. It’s tragic how many women have these shared stories. Rape trials have sadly not advanced as much as they should. It takes a lot of courage to put oneself through this, and sadly women get revictimized over and over. All our hearts are with her, as is mine with you.


  3. I’m sorry for your pain and proud that you have found your voice.


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