This week has been a major turning point in the Biden presidential campaign for all the wrong reasons. Last week, Joe Biden 's former Senate staffer Tara Reade claimed in a podcast interview that Biden sexually assaulted her when they worked together in 1993. Biden has vehemently denied these allegations and spoken in a public statement about the work he's done through the Violence Against Women Act and the "It's On Us" campaign on college campuses to help prevent sexual assaults. These allegations have surfaced after many years of light banter over Joe Biden's handsiness, specifically with young girls, as shown in various videos. This scandal is reminiscent to me of sexual assault allegations that were brought forward against Donald Trump in the months prior to the 2016 presidential election. These patterns of allegations are signals of a greater issue within rape culture.
The dialogue surrounding women coming forward against powerful men has stayed much the same for a long time. The statements that are thrown around most frequently include, "why hasn't this person come forward sooner?" "This is likely a personal campaign for revenge." or "The accuser is looking for money and exposure.". I have a real problem with all of this dialogue. If we track back to the various women have come forward with sexual assault allegations against men in high-powered careers, often politicians, we see trends in the way that these cases are handled. Firstly, these women get public attention, but of the worst kind. They are slandered in the media, their story is dissected and questioned at every turn, and they are often painted as the archetype of a manipulative and vengeful woman. By making the choice to come forward, these women sacrifice their reputations and privacy, even on the rare occasion that their accuser is found guilty. Most often, the accusers issue public statements about their good deeds and support of women. This happened both with Trump and Biden. What feels most disingenuous about this ploy, is the concept of men trying to use good deeds as a way to prove their innocence, when in reality, the work you've done in your career has no bearing on whether or not you've followed the law. For the overwhelming majority of women who come forward in the public sphere, the case is decided the second they open their mouth. And yet, women still come forward. The most disturbing part about rape culture is to watch a pattern of injustice that is perpetuated by people who have money, power, and influence. It is concerning to think about how many representatives of this country who have been involved in sexual assault, but will never be confronted because their victims aren't willing to go through the painful and humiliating process of coming forward. It is heartbreaking to see that even in the age of the Me Too Movement, as a society we have not advanced past siding with the accused rather than the victim because it is more convenient.
As I researched more about Tara Reade, I observed how the media uncovered some discrepancies in her past. She has changed her name many times throughout her life, and praised Joe Biden a few years ago for his work on the "It's On Us" campaign. Reade also made conflicting statements about her reasons for leaving her work in politics. Whether or not Reade has concocted this accusation against Biden, I will never have the authority to judge. If she is lying, it certainly only makes matters worse for real victims who are contemplating going public. The truth about Tara Reade's accusation is that regardless of its legitimacy, it was never going to be believed. All you have to do is look at how sexual assault allegations were handled during the last presidential election. As long as we as a culture continue to silence women, victim blame, and side with those who have power and authority, we will never escape electing leaders who have exploited others on their way to the top.