Why Comey's Testimony Against Trump is Like Listening to Sexual Assault Survivors

Almost 20 million people tuned in to what pundits nicknamed “Washington’s Super Bowl,” as they watched former FBI director James Comey testify over three hours  that Russia had meddled in the U.S. election and that U.S. President Donald Trump had fired him over the FBI’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had links with Moscow. But to many of the women watching, the cross-examination seemed uncomfortably familiar.

Nicole Serratore,  a theater and travel writer, tweeted that it read “so weirdly like a date with terrible guy.” Her light-hearted tweet was quickly followed by a more serious string of messages. “If you substitute sex for loyalty in all these exchanges it's like a guy who does not understand consent & won't stop until he gets his way,” she wrote.

On Wednesday, the day that Comey had published an account of his dealings with Trump, Serratore referred to Comey’s detailed account of all of his meetings with the president where he detailed the president’s attempts to coerce him to dropping part of the investigation into former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Comey testified on Thursday that he made notes about the encounters, fearing that Trump would lie about what actually happened.

In an op-ed for the New York Times Serratore argued that the document read like a statement from a survivor of workplace harassment. At a January 27 dinner, she noted, Comey found out he would be alone with the president. Trump then repeatedly insisted on Comey’s loyalty and asked if he wanted to remain FBI director. “My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship,” Comey wrote.

At a second meeting in February, Trump dismissed all other officials so he was again alone with Comey. With doors closed, he told him: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Comey, who refused to say that he would, subsequently went to the Attorney-General Jeff Sessions and asked him to prevent any further one-on-one meetings between him and the president.

In their final exchange, on April 11, Trump told Comey: “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” Of this comment Serratore writes: “‘We had that thing.’ Once more, the seducer asserts a shared intimacy that was not really there, attempting to ensnare his victim with an imputed complicity.”

On Twitter, several women agreed with Serratore, adding that the committee’s questioning of Comey sounded like the cross-examination of sexual assault survivors. In response to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein’s question: “Why didn’t you stop and say, ‘Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you’?” Nell Scovell, a TV writer and director tweeted:

Journalist and author Andrea Chalupa, and TV critic Sonia Saraiya echoed her analogy:

While women expressed sympathy toward the situation Comey found himself in—trapped by a powerful man making uncomfortable demands—many pointed out that he cannot be compared to an assault survivor. More troubling than Comey’s testimony, they argued, was Trump’s own admittance on the now-infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape when he bragged: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”