Former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll, testifying in her defamation and battery case against former President Donald Trump, described being "almost too frightened to think" during what she alleges was an attack by Trump in the dressing room of a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.
Carroll, who brought the lawsuit in November, alleges that Trump defamed her in a 2022 Truth Social post by calling her allegations "a Hoax and a lie" and saying "This woman is not my type!" when he denied her claim that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room.
She added a charge of battery under a recently adopted New York law that allows adult survivors of sexual abuse to sue their alleged attacker regardless of the statute of limitations.
"'Hey, you're that advice lady,'" Carroll said Trump told her when the two ran into each other near the store entrance. "I said, 'You're that real estate tycoon,'" Carroll recalled.
"I'm an advice columnist and here's Donald Trump asking for advice helping to buy a present," Carroll said. "I was delighted to go to [look at] lingerie with him."
At that point, the tone of their conversation was "very joshing," Carroll said. "He was having a good time and so was I."
Carroll told the jury that Trump led her into a dressing room under the guise of trying on some lingerie.
"That door has plagued me for years because I just walked into it," she said. "He immediately shut the door and shoved me up against the wall and shoved me so hard my head banged."
"Were you afraid while all this was happening?" her attorney, Michael Ferrara, asked.
"I was almost too frightened to think if I was afraid or not. My whole reason for being alive at that moment was to get out of that room," answered Carroll, who said that Trump then raped her.
"I'm here because Donald Trump raped me," Carroll said at the start of her testimony. "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."
Trump has denied all allegations that he raped Carroll or defamed her.
Asked later in her testimony how she felt about entering the dressing room, Carroll answered, "It was very stupid. I know people have been through a lot worse than this, but it left me, it left me unable to have a romantic life again."
Carroll told the jury she has had no romantic relationship since she was allegedly assaulted by Trump.
"I tried to engage him. I laughed at his jokes. I found him charming. And what happened to me when I was flirting? I got into serious trouble," she testified on the trial's second day.
"I'm a happy person but I'm aware I've lost out on one of the glorious experiences of a human being," she testified, saying that flirting with Trump "ended up as the worst decision of my life."
Carroll also testified that her second husband, John Johnson, strangled her on three occasions. She said that the violence was not sexual, and that she did not call the police and did not sue him.
Asked by her attorneys about her motivation for bringing the lawsuit, Carroll said, "I'm not settling a political score. I'm settling a personal score because he called me a liar repeatedly and it really has decimated my reputation" as a journalist.
Carroll said she voted for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden for president, but denied that her politics have anything to do with her lawsuit.
Ferrara showed the jury Trump's responses to the publication of Carroll's account of the alleged attack in 2019 that included the phrase "she's not my type."
Carroll testified she took the phrase to mean she was "too ugly to attack, too ugly to rape."
"I thought he would say it was consensual," Carroll said. "He said it didn't happen. He was there. He knows it happened."
"The vileness and the dirt and the seedy language and people describing what they think I did and why nobody in the world would touch me because of my enormous ugliness, it sort of swamped the heartfelt letters I received on the other end," Carroll said.
Carroll told the jury that she first met Trump in 1987 -- but she struggled to pinpoint the year that she alleges he attacked her.
"This question, the when, the date, has been something I've constantly been trying to pin down," Carroll said.
At first she said she thought it was 1994 or 1995, but she said her friend Lisa Birnbach published an article about Trump for New York magazine in February 1996.
"Lisa never would have gone down to Mar-a-Lago ... if she knew what Donald Trump had done to me," Carroll said, leading her to believe the alleged attack occurred in 1996.
In her opening statement, Carroll attorney Shawn Crowley suggested the lack of specificity doesn't matter.
"While Ms. Carroll doesn't remember exactly when this happened, she remembers almost every detail of what happened, and her testimony alone will be enough for you to find Donald Trump liable in this case," Crowley said.
The defense told the jury those details matter.
"She can't tell you the date that she claims to have been raped. She can't tell you the month that she claims to have been raped. She can't tell you the season. She can't even tell you the year that she claims to have been raped by Donald Trump," defense attorney Joe Tacopina said during his opening statement.
Earlier Wednesday, the jury heard from the former general manager at the Bergdorf Goodman women's store.
Cheryl Beal, who worked for the department store in the mid-1990s, testified regarding the store's layout, including the sixth floor where lingerie, couture brands and designer sportswear were sold, and where Carroll said Trump raped her in a dressing room while few, if any, people were around.
"It wasn't one of our busiest floors," Beal said.
Before the jury entered the courtroom, Carroll's attorney read aloud parts of two social media posts by Trump that she said violated the judge's orders.
On Truth Social Wednesday morning, Trump posted that Carroll's legal team is being "financed by a big political donor that they said didn't exist, only to get caught lying about that."
He also posted regarding Carroll, "She said there was a dress, using the ol' Monica Lewinsky 'stuff,' then she didn't want to produce it."
Carroll's attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said the posts violated the court's orders against "comments about lawyers and one about DNA."
"These are out-of-court comments obviously," said defense attorney Joe Tacopina, but Judge Lewis Kaplan cut him off, saying, "...where for two years he refused to give a DNA sample, and now wants it in the case."
"What you're trying to do is to get away from a statement by your client, a public statement, that on the face of it seems entirely inappropriate," Kaplan told Tacopina.
Tacopina said he would address the posts with Trump.
"I will speak to my client and ask him to refrain from any posts about this case," Tacopina said.
Kaplan said he hoped the lawyer was successful.
"We're getting into an area in which your client may or may not be tampering with a new source of potential liability, and I think you know what I mean," Kaplan said.
It remains unclear if Trump will testify himself at any point. The judge demanded to know this week whether Trump will appear, telling the defense that it was time to "fish or cut bait."
The trial is expected to last about five days. The nine-member jury of six men and three women is weighing Carroll's defamation and battery claims and deciding potential monetary damages.
This week's trial is taking place as Trump seeks the White House for a third time, while facing numerous legal challenges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, his handling of classified material after leaving the White House, and possible attempts to interfere in Georgia's 2020 vote. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said Monday she would decide whether to file criminal charges against Trump or his allies this summer.
Carroll's lawsuit is her second against Trump related to her rape allegation.
Carroll previously sued Trump in 2019 after the then-president denied her rape claim by telling The Hill that Carroll was "totally lying," saying, "I'll say it with great respect: No. 1, she's not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, OK?" That defamation suit has been caught in a procedural back-and-forth over the question of whether Trump, as president, was acting in his official capacity as an employee of the federal government when he made those remarks.
If Trump is determined to have been acting as a government employee, the U.S. government would substitute as the defendant in that suit -- which means that case would go away, since the government cannot be sued for defamation.