Joe Biden says we should believe women. So why not Tara Reade?
Two years ago in the summer of 2018, the United States was fixated on the emotional, historic hearing of Brett Kavanaugh, who was at the time a Supreme Court justice nominee. Accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, which was then eventually followed by accusations from other women, Kavanaugh and several Senate Republicans fervently defended his innocence and insisted he was, regardless, the best person for the job.
In a chilling repeat of the 1991 ordeal, when Anita Hill testified against then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, more than 20 million people streamed the Kavanaugh hearing and witnessed a woman’s trauma laid bare for a room full of strangers to dissect.
Americans watched, riveted, as Ford gently and painfully told the world about the assault in intense detail — while Kavanaugh grew redder and redder in the face with denial.
Two years later, Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court as an associate justice, and Ford has faced countless death threats and has moved her home multiple times out of fear for her safety.
Two years later, a disturbingly similar situation has emerged, involving former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his accuser, Tara Reade.
Two years later, frustrated Americans and survivors are asking: Has nothing changed?
Who is Reade?
If you think you don’t know who Reade is, think again. As a young woman at work, she was consistently devalued and sexualized by those with more power and authority than her.
From being asked to serve drinks because her boss, Biden, “liked her legs” to being touched by him casually on her neck and shoulders against her will, she was going to work everyday in an environment that did not respect her.
According to Reade, when she went to drop off an athletic bag for her boss, he pressed her up against the wall, flipped up her skirt and violated her. Since then, she has confided in close friends and family, coping with the reality that her alleged abuser has never faced any consequences — and is even running for President.
The truth is, you know too many women like Reade. While her story is unique because it involves a presidential candidate, it’s also a story many are personally familiar with.
Sexual violence as a larger issue
Sexual assault is a dirty open secret — it happens all too often, but survivors deal with the double trauma of experiencing violence from their abusers and accusations of outright dishonesty from others, while their abusers usually move on unscathed, if not for a momentary blip in their lives.
Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. These statistics come from reported cases, but likely thousands more go unreported.
After all, there are too many deterrents to reporting sexual violence: After Reade went public with her allegations, she was immediately marked a liar and received several death threats, much like Ford.
Before the age of #MeToo Movement and online communities of support and solidarity, when Hill testified against Supreme Court Justice Thomas for sexual harassment, she was also ripped apart by the media and the American public. Given how often women are sexually assaulted and harassed, frequently by men in positions of power, the shocked outrage at Reade’s accusations seem laughable at best.
A troubling pattern
What’s more, Biden has a history of making women uncomfortable. There are countless videos that document him repeatedly invading their space, casually placing his hands on intimate, though not necessarily sexual, parts of their bodies. Reade is one of eight women to speak out against the former vice-president for sexual misconduct.
While they don’t necessarily serve as evidence that he assaulted Reade, they demonstrate an entitled attitude toward women’s bodies and a clear lack of respect for their personal space and autonomy — ideologies that make up the foundation of rape culture.
Paired with the fact that Biden has also demonstrated a pattern of dishonesty, from repeated plagiarism all the way from his law school career to his current campaign, to his lies about marching in the Civil Rights Movement, it stands to reason that Biden’s character is more questionable than Reade’s.
Biden, in response, has repeatedly claimed that Reade’s accusations are false. In an interview on "Morning Joe", Biden claimed that Reade’s allegations “never, never happened.”
He also said, “I don’t know why after 27 years all of a sudden this gets raised."
But Biden had a different tune in 2018, when he was speaking on the subject of Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford.
“For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real,” he said. “Whether she forgets facts, whether it’s been made worse or better over time.”
The Democratic Party’s case for Biden
The Democratic Party continues to insist that Biden is one, innocent, and two, a champion of women’s rights, which both corroborates his innocence and makes him the best candidate out there, right? Not really.
In actuality, a glance at Biden’s track record will show you that he’s not as ardent a supporter of women’s rights as many Democrats have made it seem. In fact, Biden has changed his standpoint on abortion rights repeatedly.
For several years, he supported the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding to go to abortion procedures under programs like Medicare. After his support was met with criticism in June 2019, he changed his opinion overnight and stated that he no longer supports it. As Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) pointed out in a debate, his support for segregationist policies have also harmed many women of color, describing her own childhood as an example.
There may be many reasons to vote for Biden over President Donald J. Trump in the upcoming election, but certainly not because Biden is a champion of women’s rights.
Capitol Hill’s problem with survivors
“I believe that women deserve to be heard, and I believe that they need to be listened to. But I also believe that those allegations have to be investigated by credible sources,” Democrat and powerhouse Stacey Abrams said. “The New York Times did a deep investigation, and they found that the accusation was not credible. I believe Joe Biden.”
Many Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Harris and others, are outwardly supporting Biden despite their past criticism of Kavanaugh and Trump for their history of sexual misconduct.
For survivors and women’s rights activists, it is disheartening, to say the least, that the party that claims it pushes for women’s rights has actually used every bit of its muscle to disprove Reade and discredit her allegations. What are we supposed to do when even the influential, inspiring women of the Democratic National Convention are telling us Reade is a liar, when Ford’s account was upheld?
And now, Republicans are using the allegations for their own political advantage. In Trump’s latest advertisement, the campaign goes after the hypocrisy of Biden and Democrats for crucifying Kavanaugh while throwing their full support behind Biden.
It should be noted that Trump himself has been accused by at least 25 different women of sexual misconduct, and each time, the Republican Party responds by dismissing allegation after allegation.
All of this paints a devastating reality for survivors: Their trauma and experiences are only valuable to Washington when effectively weaponized as take-down material. If the leaders and “public servants” of our country only care about sexual violence when it’s politically relevant to them, then the implications for cases at other levels of our society are even more dire.
In the end, the question is not just about who to vote for. It’s something far more devastating. After all that has happened — with Hill, Dr. Ford, the #MeToo Movement and now Reade: Why are we being asked to choose between two alleged sexual abusers for President?
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