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Bill Clinton, Rape, and How Liberal Feminism Failed Us


I sometimes find it disheartening to see my favourite celebrities backing political candidates I feel they don’t know enough about. Full disclosure, I’ve written on Affinity about my love for Bernie Sanders, so yes, I am saying that I find it disheartening to see them support Hillary Clinton- especially when they use sugar-coated, quasi-feminist reasons like “girl power”, which I believe limits the honest, candid dialogue centering around the election, rather than contributing to it.

But I felt it was more than a bit disappointing to see Lady Gaga support Hillary Clinton– I saw it as hypocritical.

The plus side is, however, that Lady Gaga probably doesn’t even realize this.

Lady Gaga is not only one of the most talented and revolutionary pop stars of our generation, but she’s also a fearless and wonderful advocate for sexual abuse survivors- I watched this year’s Oscars with a bunch of kids from my dorm and there were real tears flowing for her stunning performance of “Til It Happens To You”. She has bravely spoken out about her own experiences surviving rape, and has stood by her famous peers, including Kesha and Jamie King as they publicly speak about their abuse. She has shown her unwavering and adamant support of these women in the best way possible- she’s believed them.

But Hillary Clinton clearly hasn’t- or she has, and her actions are all the more sinister as a result.

When you think of Hillary Clinton, you probably think of pantsuits and e-mails and those memes where she isn’t as pop culture savvy as Bernie Sanders. But you definitely also think of her marriage- her time as First Lady made her famous and respected and scandal-ridden and distrusted and pitied. As much as she’s tried to keep her distance from some of her husband’s actions as President- such as his widely criticized 1994 crime bill, welfare reform and DOMA- she can’t avoid the fact that she has stood by him and openly supported him- in literally everything.

Even when he was accused of rape.

We don’t like to talk about it much at all, but a number of women accused Bill Clinton of inappropriate sexual behaviour, ranging from harassment to rape.

Like many powerful men who have been accused of sexual violence- Dr. Luke, Bill Cosby and Woody Allen come to mind- Bill Clinton has never been charged. However, he has made a settlement of about $850,000 in response to accusations made by Paula Jones.

Still, though, he has not been charged. But the accusations still stand, decades later.

Only one woman has formally identified her experience as rape- everyone else has claimed sexual assault or harassment. The woman in question is not anonymous- her name is Juanita Broaddrick.

Broaddrick’s claim is that in 1978, when Bill was running to become the Governor of Arkansas, he made a campaign stop at the nursing home in which she worked. They spoke, connected, and he told her to call him if she was ever in the area of his headquarters- which she later did. Juanita, unsuspecting of anything but innocent discussion regarding politics, met him in a hotel lobby, but, to avoid being berated by the press, he suggested they take their conversation into the hotel room she staying in while attending a convention.

Juanita followed him to the hotel room where he raped her.

Maybe she was lying. Maybe she wanted to bring Bill Clinton down. Maybe she thought she could make money from lying about being raped. Maybe she wanted the attention. Maybe she’s absolutely delusional- but her claims have more “merit” by legal standards than many highly publicized rape accusations.

First and foremost, her claims have been almost perfectly consistent over the course of decades. Many claims of sexual assault with have multiple inconsistencies, and this does not necessarily mean that the accusations aren’t true– everything from PTSD to purposely misleading police questions to alcohol consumption to survival instincts during traumatic events can lead to distorted or inaccurate recollections. But it’s undeniable that, in court, inconsistent testimony can create the reasonable doubt needed to get a rapist to walk free. But Juanita’s story is consistent.

She also has five witnesses to corroborate her story. Far too often, victims of assault remain quiet about their experiences, and don’t tell loved ones or professionals until about the time they choose to report. Often, in sex abuse cases, lawyers will try to find other people they confided in- it supports the validity of the claims. Juanita confided in five separate people, including a co-worker who found her crying and swollen immediately after the incident. Also interesting is that two of the five confidants stand by their story and insist that it’s true, but are open about the fact that they have an apparent conflict of interest- Clinton commuted the life sentence of the man who murdered their father. Oftentimes, these conflicts arise in court cases after being kept silent, and are often used to discredit the testimony all together. Being frank and upfront about it supports her story- it shows she has nothing to hide.

Her story also corroborates with testimony about his infidelity, made at a completely separate time by a woman with no link to Broaddrick. Elizabeth Gracen claims to have had a consensual affair with Bill- and that he bit her lip during a one-night stand. Juanita claims that her lip was swollen because he bit it so hard- which her colleague and then-boyfriend corroborate.

It is also important to note two things: firstly, she has never accepted money from any media publications for her claims- meaning we can safely eliminate the whole “this is all for profit” approach. Secondly, she first made these claims in 1999, when it was impossible for Bill Clinton to run for re-election- which blows the whole “trying to bring a man to ruins” idea apart.

So this leaves us with a few major questions.

First of all: is she telling the truth? Are the other women?

We can’t say for sure. Juanita never pressed charges- but remember that most women who are assaulted do not. There are two alleged “discrepancies” that are supposed to destroy Juanita’s credibility. Neither of them do.

The first is that Juanita waited so long to make the claim- but this is not abnormal, and not unbelievable. The number of women who come out saying that Bill Cosby assaulted them has doubled in recent months, even though many of these claims are from years ago. Juanita had a number of reasons not to come forward until she did- and one of them is pretty logical: if you make these accusations against a person running for political office (either as a Governor or President), you will likely be discredited as someone making false claims to bring down a political career. Waiting until he’s no longer running for office is what I would do. The second apparent piece of “evidence” that she’s lying is that she actually signed an affidavit a year before coming forward saying that she had no information “regarding a non-consensual or unwelcome advance” from Bill. Juanita’s reason is simple- and it sounds a lot like the reasons we’ve heard from women like Kesha and Lady Gaga- she was afraid. Bill is and was a powerful man. She felt, in 1998, that the best thing to do for her own preservation was to sign the affidavit, later, she felt confident enough to come forward anyways.

The question is not whether or not we can say without reasonable doubt that Bill Clinton is a rapist and serial assaulter. The question is why the hell we don’t ever mention it, the way we do with other powerful men.

We have decided that Kesha is a woman who deserves dignity and agency- her story deserves to be heard, even if you cannot confirm its validity. We have decided the same for Lucy DeCoutere, and Anita Hill, and adult film star Stoya, and the fifty-plus women who have come forward saying Bill Cosby assaulted them- even the ones who remain anonymous. Why have we decided that Paula Jones, Ginnifer Flowers, Kathleen Wiley and Juanita Broaddrick do not deserve to be heard, to be believed, and to be supported? Is it because there is something about them that inherently makes them a lesser woman? Maybe they aren’t as pretty as Kesha, or as talented as Lucy, or as vulnerable as young Dylan Farrow, who accused her adoptive father, Woody Allen, of molesting her as a child. Maybe they aren’t famous. Maybe there aren’t fifty more of them. But they exist, and they have stayed firm over the course of decades. Ignoring or discrediting these claims based on no evidence is not just a failure on the part of the media- it’s a fucking travesty, and it’s a sign that sexism, classism and uneven power dynamics still exist within our society when it comes to the touchy topic of rape.

The liberal media has failed us. Third wave feminism has failed us. The Democratic Party has failed us. When they choose to protect a powerful man at  the expense of the suffering of women, they have decided that they do not care about women. The Democratic Party likes the female vote- it gives them power and money and a rep for progressivism. But they don’t like those pesky women who come forward to talk about horrific experiences in hopes of, you know, real action being taken. Recently, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has brought Bill’s past back into the limelight, and people are quick to label these “baseless attacks”- after all, Donald Trump is an overgrown toddler trying to become King of the Playground. In an attempt to continue this narrative (which is a pretty accurate description of his campaign), and to protect Bill and Hillary Clinton, the media has purposely chosen to erase the stories and struggles of real women. They have decided that the only kind of woman who matters is the type who wears designer pantsuits and finds multi-million dollar success in the political sphere. The type that works in the White House, not a nursing home in Arkansas. The type who gets a stamp of approval from sexual assault survivors like Lady Gaga. That kind of woman needs to be respected and protected- even if lesser women have to be thrown under the bus in the process.

What does Hillary even have to do with any of this? It’s unclear. Juanita personally claims that Hillary threatened her to keep her quiet. Once again, that evidence is only as strong as your belief in women is. But either way, the media has clearly been protecting Hillary. Many mainstream publications have endorsed her, or at least have the tendency to write positive articles about her- and even media outlets who don’t necessarily want to see her become the next President, still believe she is better than Trump, and therefor, they are okay with hiding these accusations behind useless fodder about her celebrity endorsements and contrived tidbits about her personal life. They have decided seeing a President Clinton is more important than seeing all women receive dignity and support in equal rations. Hillary might not see this, and may not want this, but it is happening because of her. That doesn’t mean it’s her fault, but it’s troubling nonetheless.

Others would go farther, and suggest that staying with her husband is a sign of support- meaning, choosing to support him over the likes of Jones and Broaddrick. If she really did not want to own up to any responsibility in what People magazines referred to as “decades old” and “unproven” claims, she should not stand by her husband. By being silent and supportive, she is choosing that Bill is right and a dozen women are wrong.

I could convince myself that maybe Hillary was not purposely trying to stab other women in the back. Bill is her husband, a man she loves. You would tend to trust your loved ones first and foremost. I can believe that she’s misguided, or desperately clinging to her own reasonable doubt, because the alternative is knowing the person you married is a monster.

But then she got called out on it. In 2015, she sent out a tweet telling survivors of sexual assault that they have the right to be believed. Beautiful, feminist sentiment- the concept that we can support women and grant them dignity and credibility, rather than judgement and dismissal because the circumstances of rape often leave women afraid to press charges and without physical evidence. So does that mean she believes every single woman deserves this, or just the ones who aren’t saying these things about her hubby? When asked this at a campaign stop in December, she revamped her statements to say that women deserve to be believed until they are discredited by evidence.

That was when I could no longer hold onto the narrative that Hillary is completely innocent in all this. She directly stated that women should be believed, and the only exception is when evidence proves otherwise. The only thing is, there is no evidence to debunk these claims. As with virtually all rape claims, they can not be proven by a firsthand witness or genetic evidence, but they are consistent, have not been made for economic or political reasons, and are far more corroborated than the average rape victim’s. But she is still making the conscious choice to not believe them. That means that it does not matter whether or not these women live up to her standards of believability- she has decided that they do not deserve to be believed anyways. She got thunderous applause when she made that statement. It’s all round sickening, if you ask me.

I sincerely believe that many people have found themselves unaware of Bill’s accusations because they are seldom discussed, or believe these women to be among the very few who do lie about rape because of purposely misleading news reports. They believe that these claims have been “disproven” by an affidavit. They believe these women are hicks who would do anything for money or fame. They believe that these women are not telling the truth, but they did not make that assumption based on the objective facts regarding the case. They are possibly basing their beliefs on reasonable doubt, or loyalty to the Clintons, but they are not basing that belief solely on the testimony and corroborated evidence available. That’s not their fault- it’s the fault of the media, the fellow liberals, and the campaign spin machines. After all, Democrats are supposed to be good guys. The Republicans have to deal with dark legacies from the likes of Bush and Reagan, and we don’t need our own tarnished legacy as well, do we? A little sacrifice is worth it, you know, for the bigger picture?

The fact that we don’t talk about Bill Clinton’s rape accusations- even though he is just as much as a rapist as Bill Cosby is- proves that this is no longer about protecting powerful men- it’s about protecting the power, no matter what shape or form it comes in. It could be a man who became Black America’s most beloved star. It could a Boy-Next-Door porn actor or a genius comedic director. It could be a respected, decorated filmmaker whose inherently sympathetic because his wife was brutally murdered by Charles Manson. It could be in the form of a charming, handsome Democratic President whose supposed to be on our side. It could come in the form of a polished, educated woman in a Givenchy suit, one ready for her place in the history books. It doesn’t matter what form the power comes in, as long as we don’t let the events that occurred in a hotel room in rural Arkansas- whatever those events may be- tear it down.

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Megan Hunt is a Canadian journalist, editor and playwright currently working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree from Concordia University. Along with Affinity, her work has been featured in the 2020 McGill Drama Festival, Hindwing Press, Garfield Lake Review, The Concordian, The Link and Green Teacher, among others. She is an suburbanite by birth, a Montrealer by choice, and overly opinionated by nature.


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