Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s penchant for pursuing teenage girls was “common knowledge” in the town of Gadsden, Ala., according to some residents.
“These stories have been going around this town for 30 years,” Blake Usry, a Gadsden resident, told Al.com. “Nobody could believe they hadn’t come out yet.”
Usry added that the news about Moore is “not a big secret,” calling it “sort of frustrating to watch” people deny the stories of the five women who have come forward so far.
“I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother,” Roy Moore on Sean Hannity’s radio show.
The Washington Post broke the story last week when four women said Moore pursued them when they were teenagers. The most notable of the stories was that of Leigh Corfman, who was 14 at the time and whose encounter with Moore went beyond kissing. Three other women said they were 16, 17 and 18 when they encountered Moore. Following The Post’s story a fifth woman came forward alleging that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old.
And while the stories are just making national headlines decades later, whispers around town have apparently been buzzing for years.
Also speaking with Al.com, Sheryl Porter described Moore’s behavior as “a well-known secret” at the courthouse.
“Him liking and dating young girls was never a secret in Gadsden when we were all in high school,” Porter said. “In our neighborhoods up by Noccalula Falls we heard it all the time.”
Given that the majority of the town knew Moore’s tendencies, Porter said, “It’s just sad how these girls are getting hammered and called liars, especially Leigh [Corfman].”
Corfman and her mother told The Post that her first encounter with Moore, a former district attorney, was outside a courtroom. Other women said Roy approached them at the Gadsden Mall, which was built in 1977 and became a popular spot for teenagers to hang out, according to Al.com.
“He would go and flirt with all the young girls,” Ursy, then a teenager, told the outlet. “It’d seem like every Friday or Saturday night [you’d see him] walking around the mall, like the kids did.”
“I wasn’t ready for that — I had never put my hand on a man’s penis, much less an erect one,” Corfman says.
The fifth woman to make an accusation against Moore was Beverly Young Nelson, who on Monday said Moore sexually assaulted her when she was a 16-year-old waitress.
Nelson recounted the attack at a news conference. She said the assault took place in her car.
“I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch,” Nelson reported.
Nelson is the first woman to accuse Moore of assault.
Victoria Beverstock, also a former waitress, shared with Al.com that Moore “watched us girls quite openly.”
“When you didn’t smile and flirt back with him, give him an opening, he became rude and demanding,” Beverstock said.
As more women come forward to share their experiences as young girls, a social media campaign #MeAt14 is going viral.
The topic reportedly started with Catherine Lawson, a North Carolina-based lawyer. She shared a picture of herself at age 14 on Twitter.
“Can’t consent at 14. Not in Alabama. Not anywhere,” Lawson wrote with the photo.
Can’t consent at 14.
Not in Alabama.
— Catherine R L Lawson (@catlawson) November 10, 2017
— Catherine R L Lawson (@catlawson) November 11, 2017
Actress Alyssa Milano, who has been credited for the resurgence of the #MeToo campaign that exploded after allegations of sexual assault against disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein came out, also shared a #MeAt14 photo.
#MeAt14 I worshipped my brother. I loved my dog, Pucci. I loved OMD. I had Big hair. I was happy. I was innocent.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) November 12, 2017
— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) November 12, 2017
I was a freshman in high school.
I was a virgin.
My stepfather got home from work at 3:30 every day.
I got home at 3:45.
We were alone for at least an hour.
He would make me sit in his lap.
And kiss him.
And touch him.
And he would touch me.
— Olivia Pope (@OliviaResists) November 12, 2017
— Fern Naomi Renville (@Fern_Renville) November 12, 2017
— Sandra Londino (@SandraLondino) November 12, 2017
This is #MeAt14 , having already been abused by a grown man. I’m lost. Battling anorexia, bulimia, insomnia, low self esteem, I’ve already begun drinking.
— Laura Parrott Perry (@lparrottperry) November 13, 2017
A picture around the age when as a teen #MeAt14 when I was sexually assaulted, over 40 years ago. Still remember it to this day, though at the time I did not report it, nor tell anyone, since I didn’t know it was assault. I do now,
— Timothy McBride (@mcbridetd) November 11, 2017