(CNN)In an interview with ABC News, first lady Melania Trump said that victims of sexual assault “need to have really hard evidence” before coming forward. She added, “I do stand with women, but we need to show the evidence. You cannot just say to somebody, ‘I was sexually assaulted’ or ‘you did that to me’ because sometimes the media goes too far. …”
The hypocrisy is jarring. Trump proclaimed that she “stand(s) with women,” yet, in the next breath, opined that sex crime victims should not be believed unless they produce independent corroborating evidence for their allegations. In fact, Trump badly misconstrues how sex crime cases and investigations actually work. At the same time, she sends a dangerous message that threatens to discourage sex crime victims from coming forward to hold their attackers accountable.
Trump’s statement is problematic because it distorts the law. Simply put, testimony is evidence. A core purpose of any trial is to elicit testimony and to enable the jury to evaluate the credibility of the witness. By her words, Trump promoted a problematic misconception that witness testimony — particularly if that witness is a victim of a sex assault — should not be believed, or should not be believed enough to visit consequences on the accused.