If the past few weeks have taught me anything — apart from the massive ineptitude and narcissism of the current occupant of the White House — it is that many of those who opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court on the basis of credible allegations of sexual assault are now willing to turn their backs on the #MeToo movement.
Indeed, after seven women came forward last summer accusing Joe Biden of inappropriate kissing and touching, another survivor has come forward to share her story of being sexually assaulted by Biden while working for him in the Senate in 1993.
The response to Tara Reade’s detailed account of the sexual assault has been one of the most painful and disheartening things to witness this election cycle. The Democratic Party prides itself as an inclusive and diverse coalition, one which stands up to the patriarchal status quo and provides a voice for those who have for far too long been silenced — even when it is not convenient to do so. But now that we are facing “the most important election of our lifetime” against “the most dangerous president in modern American history,” all of these values have been left behind in the quest to ensure that Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, succeeds at what Hillary Clinton sadly failed to do: defeat the neo-fascist wannabe, Donald Trump.
The problem, of course, is that if Democrats, like Republicans, are willing to set aside credible allegations of sexual assault in order to secure political gain, then we will be collectively taking a number of steps backward from the progress we have made with the #MeToo movement. Shame on us if survivors will only be taken seriously and believed when they make an allegation against a member of the GOP.
But make no mistake: The aspirations of the #MeToo movement are not, and never were, to operate under the bad-faith assumption that the accused is “guilty until proven innocent.” On the contrary, this movement, spearheaded by the bravery and courage of thousands of women and men, was designed to subvert the default posture of assuming that the victim — women and LGBTQIA victims in particular — was lying, seeking attention, or attempting to ruin someone’s career. As is now widely recognized, there is very little incentive to speak out against a powerful public figure, for it frequently leads to harassment both in real life and on social media, as well as threats to oneself and members of one’s family. Given all of these deterrents, those who come forward deserve a fair hearing, regardless of whether the accused is aspiring toward a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court or securing an office in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Tara Reade, however, has been given the opposite of a fair hearing. Just as with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, people have accused her of being politically-motivated — “lying to tarnish the reputation of a good man.” Astonishingly, when she first came forward with just the preliminary details of her story, a writer for The Atlantic implied that she was a Russian agent. And now that she has shared the rest of the details and filed a police report, others have (disgustingly) accused her of “changing her story.” Tara has made it clear for a long time, however, that she only initially shared part of her experience being victimized by Joe Biden, and had unsuccessfully tried, long before voting began, to get the full story shared with the world.
On top of all of this vilification, a popular figure in the entertainment world (who has used the #MeToo movement to boost her own profile) suggested that the allegations were not credible because the media was not reporting on it widely, as if the veracity of these claims were dependent upon the media taking them seriously. And then, when the national media finally reported on the story — reporting which uncovered evidence that (1) Tara told a friend about the assault at the time; (2) Tara was abruptly and without explanation removed from oversight of office interns at the time in which the assault allegedly took place; and (3) there was evidence that Biden had a pattern of consistently engaging in inappropriate kissing and touching — these same stories primarily sought to cast doubt on Reade herself.
Appallingly, the New York Times even deleted, at the request of the Biden campaign, the fact that they had discovered a pattern of Biden engaging in inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature, while the Washington Post misrepresented the publicly available police report which Reade filed.
We have even arrived at the point where Amy Klobuchar, Gretchen Whitmer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Bernie Sanders have been asked about the alleged assault by reporters, but Joe Biden has not. One would think, after a month of dozens of interviews on live television, that a reporter would directly ask Biden about Tara Reade’s claims, including the fact that she was abruptly demoted after expressing concerns about Biden’s behavior to her superiors. Combined with the way that Reade has been treated, the fact that the media has failed to engage in this most basic act of inquiry into the alleged assault is a clear statement to fellow victims of Joe Biden: Don’t come forward; we won’t believe you.
That message strikes to my core, because I, too, was sexually assaulted by Joe Biden. But if I go public, will I be called a liar? Will I be accused of being a Russian agent? Will my family and friends be attacked for corroborating my story? Will the media ignore me for weeks, followed by Alyssa Milano going on a podcast to suggest that that is a reason not to believe that it is true? Will the national media attempt to cast doubt upon my credibility? Will those on the short-list to become Biden’s vice-presidential nominee remain quiet and hope this blows over? Will half the country brush me aside and claim that at least my assaulter isn’t as bad as the current assaulter-in-chief?
So far as I can see, there is absolutely no incentive to come forward. It appears that the Democratic Party and the national media will go out of its way to discredit me as a person and defend Joe Biden, even in the face of two credible allegations of sexual assault. And if so, then (God help us!) my coming forward would only “weaken” the Democratic nominee, helping improve Donald Trump’s chances of being re-elected — a scenario which must be avoided for the sake of humanity.
So I guess my question is, do I have to remain silent and vote for a rapist because I live in a swing state?