Just one day after the third and final presidential debate, another woman has come forward to say that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump groped her 18 years ago after a U.S. Open tennis tournament in Queens, New York.
Karena Virginia — a self-described yoga instructor and life coach who lives in the New York City region — said at a press conference on Thursday morning that Trump approached her in 1998 while she was waiting for her car service in Flushing, New York.
“As I was waiting, Donald Trump approached me,” she said. “I knew who he was, but I had never met him. He was with a few other men. I was quite surprised when I overheard him talking with the other men about me. He said, ‘hey look at this one. We haven’t seen her before. Look at those legs’ as though I was an object rather than a person.”
Virginia became visibly emotional when she described Trump groping her.
“He then walked up to me and reached his right arm and grabbed my right arm,” she said. “Then his hand touched the right inside of my breast. I was in shock. I flinched. ‘Don’t you know who I am?’”
“I am here today to add my voice to that of other Trump accusers.”
She said that the experience left her feeling “intimidated and powerless.” And she blamed herself: She said the experience left her feeling ashamed for wearing “short dresses and high heels” for “a long time.”
Virginia said that she chose to talk publicly about her experience now because of the recent release of an Access Hollywood tape in which Trump brags about assaulting women without their consent — and because she wanted to be supportive of the other women who have since come forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault.
Virginia’s account of her chance encounter with Trump tracks closely with what other women say they have experienced.
The Republican presidential candidate has repeatedly denied all of these accusations, dismissing his comments as “locker room talk.” Trump has also bashed many of the woman, calling many of them liars and suggesting that some of them were too unattractive for him to sexually harass. During Wednesday’s presidential debate, he suggested that all the women who have come forward over the past several weeks are “seeking fame.”
Trump’s wife Melania has also defended him, saying that he was “egged on” by then-Access Hollywood host Billy Bush to engage in “boy talk.”
The emotions that Virginia said she experienced fit into a bigger pattern of victims blaming themselves for unwanted sexual advances and feeling ashamed for being the subject of an assault.
Although she said some people advised her not to come forward with her story because she would likely be labeled “as just another nasty woman” — an allusion to what Trump called Hillary Clinton during the final debate — Virginia said she ultimately felt compelled to go public because she felt “it is my duty as a woman, as a mother, a human being, and as a American citizen to speak out about what happened to me.”
“I am here today to add my voice to that of other Trump accusers, I am here to stand up to Mr. Trump for myself, for my family, particularly my daughter and for all the women who deserve to be respected and not subjected to sexual abuse by powerful men,” she added.
UPDATE: In a statement released Thursday, Jessica Ditto, Deputy Communications Director at the Trump campaign, called the press conference “another coordinated, publicity seeking attack with the Clinton campaign.”
“Give me a break,” Ditto said. “Voters are tired of these circus-like antics and reject these fictional stories and the clear efforts to benefit Hillary Clinton.”