Lauren Batchelder says that she had always been “incredibly passionate” about politics, since long before she became old enough to vote during the 2016 election. She had even volunteered on campaigns to learn more about the process. In this spirit, she attended a political event in her home state of New Hampshire and even asked one of the candidates, Donald Trump, a question.
However, Batchelder now says that this moment led to considerable pain and suffering over the years, as Trump supporters took to the web to harass and threaten her.
A Simple Question
In a new BBC Three documentary, Trump in Tweets, Batchelder says she was wary of the then-candidate in 2016, but wanted to give him a chance to address her concerns.
“He owns the Miss Universe pageant, and that really bothered me, and I also knew that he had said he didn’t support abortion and that really worried me,” she said. With these concerns in mind, she decided to attend the event.
“Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think you’re a friend to women,” Batchelder told Trump at the event. Trump replied to her statement by saying, “I knew I shouldn’t have picked her,” before claiming that he “respects women incredibly” and “cherishes” them.
Batchelder had more specific concerns, however. “I want to get paid the same as a man and I think you understand that. So if you become president will a woman make the same as a man and do I get to choose what I do with my body?”
“You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job,” Trump replied, “and I happen to be pro-life.”
A Life Disrupted
Batchelder assumed this would be the end of the matter — until Trump tweeted about her the next morning.
“The arrogant young woman who questioned me in such a nasty fashion was a Jeb staffer! HOW CAN HE BEAT RUSSIA & CHINA?” Trump wrote. His tweet referred to unpaid work Batchelder did for Republican candidate Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign earlier in the year.
“I decided to intern for the Bush campaign because I thought it was going to be an interesting opportunity,” she said, “but it wasn’t working for me and so we parted.”
Batchelder told the Washington Post in 2016 that she joined the campaign for political experience, despite her own politics not matching up with Bush’s conservative platform.
“Why would they ever send me out to do a pro-choice question? Guys, [Bush] is pro-life, which was one of my biggest problems with the Republican Party,” she said. “And so I was like: ‘Why would they ever send me to do that?'”
Regardless, Trump supporters insisted she had been a plant, and began harassing her relentlessly. Batchelder says they inundated her phone, Facebook, and email inbox with threats of violence and sexual abuse.
“There had been a lot of things that had happened that summer; I was a survivor of sexual assault and I was filled with so much anger,” she said. “They said that they were going to find me and rape me.”
Batchelder even said she received a box of human feces in the mail, in addition to a torrent of graphic threats.
“The most shocking and scary one to me was a comment that said they know where I lived and they said they were going to stomp my head in a curb and urinate all over my face,” she said.
Batchelder told the BBC that the ordeal almost drove her to drop out of college, saying it was “truly just one of the darkest moments of my life.”
This isn’t the sole instance of Trump using his online platform to mock a young person.
Last year, Time magazine named 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg “Person of the Year.” In response, Trump tweeted that she “must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend.” Conservative figures like Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka and singer Meatloaf followed him in mocking the girl.
For her part, Batchelder has held on to hope that the president’s behavior may one day change.
“You cannot heal when you’re angry,” she said, adding that she has had to forgive her harassers in order to move on.
“I think that Donald Trump can change and that’s really my hope,” she added.