You’d think an accusation of child rape levelled at one of the most powerful men in the Western world would be front page news, and yet reports of a federal lawsuit filed against Donald Trump, which claims he and another man sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl, have hardly made a sound.
While the billionaire US presidential hopeful has denied any wrongdoing — his lawyers have described the reports as “categorically untrue, completely fabricated and politically motivated” — that doesn’t mean they aren’t potentially credible and it certainly doesn’t render them not newsworthy.
An anonymous “Jane Doe” alleges that Trump raped her in 1994 while she was being held as a sex slave in an apartment belonging to Jeffrey Epstein, a well-known American financier and convicted sex offender.
He is a man who Trump is known to have a relationship with and whom he once described as a “terrific guy” who “likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”
The billionaire US presidential hopeful has denied any wrongdoing. Image source: Getty
The woman claims Trump "initiated sexual contact" with her on four occasions while she was 13, according to her victim statement.
She described the fourth as a "savage sexual attack" after which he threatened that she and her family would be "physically harmed if not killed" if she spoke out.
There is also a witness to the assault — which is extremely rare — who corroborates the story.
A "Tiffany Doe" who worked as Epstein's "party planner" from 1991-2000 and says part of her job was "to get attractive adolescent women to attend these parties."
"I personally witnessed the Plaintiff being forced to perform various sexual acts with Donald J. Trump and Mr. Epstein. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein were advised that she was 13 years old.
"I personally witnessed four sexual encounters that the Plaintiff was forced to have with Mr. Trump during this period, including the fourth of these encounters where Mr. Trump forcibly raped her despite her pleas to stop."
Trump was previously accused of sexually assaulting his first wife Ivana, though the charged were later dropped. Image source: Getty
Arguably, it is very much in the public interest for news organisations to report that the man seeking to lead the free world is accused of having sex with an underage girl multiple times and, on one occasion, allegedly doing so violently and without her consent — even if the allegations are later proven not to be true.
The Huffington Post is one of the few places a balanced analysis of the case's viability can be found.
As legal analyst for NBC News Lisa Bloom writes: "If the Bill Cosby case has taught us anything, it is to not disregard rape cases against famous men."
"In covering a story, a media outlet is not finding guilt. It is simply reporting the news that a lawsuit has been filed against Mr. Trump, and ideally putting the complaint in context."
Trump implied Megyn Kelly must have been menstruating when she grilled him during a televised debate (post continues after video):
The context she provides is one of Trump's overt misogyny and unapologetic sexualisation of women.
She points to his sexist commentary about journalist Megyn Kelly, his decades of unapologetic objectification of women and two previous sexual assault claims made against him (though later dismissed), including an accusation of rape by his first wife Ivana Trump.
Being a misogynist does not automatically make someone a rapist. But when a known misogynist who is running to be President of the United States is accused of raping an underage girl, it certainly warrants investigation.
He quickly deleted this sexist tweet about political opponent Hilary Clinton. Source: Twitter
"We live in a world where wealthy, powerful men often use and abuse women and girls," Bloom says.
"While these allegations may shock some, as a lawyer who represents women in sexual abuse cases every day, I can tell you that sadly, they are common, as is an accuser’s desire to remain anonymous, and her terror in coming forward."