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joe-biden
Credit: Son Nguyen

Who are we to decide when we should believe survivors, and when we should look away based on political inconvenience?

Tara Reade’s story is horrifying, but credible. According to Reade, in 1993, her then-boss, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), pushed her against a wall, reached into her skirt, penetrated her with his fingers, and tried to kiss her. When she pulled away, Reade alledges Biden said, “Come on, man, I heard you liked me.” After filing a complaint, Reade said she was stripped of her duties, demoted to a windowless office, and soon after dismissed from Biden’s staff. 

In January 2020, Reade reached out to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, a fund established after the emergence of the Me Too movement. Ultimately, she was denied assistance on the basis that a sexual assault allegation against a political candidate could compromise the fund’s tax-exempt nonprofit status. 

This rejection undermines the Me Too Movement’s core values — to support survivors and end sexual violence regardless of the perpetrator. These goals should be, and in many cases have been, pursued regardless of the abuser’s position, power, or authority; but not in Tara Reade’s case. 

Reade’s story has barely been acknowledged by the mainstream media or the Democratic establishment. The New York Times released an article investigating Reade’s allegations against the former vice president 19 days after an article from The Intercept and a podcast from The Katie Halper Show shed light on them. Moreover, the allegations have not received adequate attention from members of the political establishment or members of the public. Recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former President Barack Obama provided key endorsements to the Biden campaign. Even my friends and family are now dismissing her story. 

I get it: we are in the midst of a global pandemic with thousands of people dying, millions losing their jobs, and domestic abuse rising. Reade’s story is not everyone's top priority, but when thinking about electing the president who will lead us through the next global crisis, it should be.

Biden and the Democratic establishment would like voters to believe that we have two options: we can amplify Tara Reade’s story, possibly tilting the election toward Trump, or we can continue to dismiss Tara Reade, by citing insufficient evidence, poor timing, and Biden’s character to hide behind the real reason of political inconvenience.

There is a third option. Tara Reade was brave enough to tell her story; we can be brave enough to support her. Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee for president; we can dare to change that. We can acknowledge sexual violence is unacceptable behavior, and refuse to accept it.

I am not ready to give up, because I am not ready to vote for an accused sexual predator. I will not settle for silence. If every person who condemns sexual assault supports Tara Reade’s story, then the Democratic National Committee will be forced to respond in a manner as severe as the allegation itself. 

What if, instead of bowing to political pressure, we demanded more news coverage and investigations? What if we gave Tara Reade the same credibility and respect that we gave Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in 2018?

None of this is to suggest I want Donald Trump re-elected. In a choice between Biden and Donald Trump, I will vote for Biden. I will vote for him because I believe his presidency could make a positive difference for the working class, people of color, women, immigrants, and children that Trump has harmed. I will vote for him because I believe he is politically-flexible and that with fervent activism we stand a chance to effect necessary change.

Despite all of this, there's no denying that the allegations against Biden raise important questions about the way America views survivors of sexual assault. When will we treat all survivors and their stories with the serious consideration they deserve? When will I, a young woman in America, see that the Democratic Party values my body and my truth as much as they value a man’s career? When will we make certain that under no condition will a sexual predator occupy a position of power?

I am sick of hearing that day is tomorrow. Let’s make it today.

EMMA GLASSER is an Engineering sophomore from Princeton, N.J. studying Materials Science and Engineering and Environmental Science. Her email is eglasser@seas.upenn.edu.

CAMPUS RESOURCES

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Penn Women's Center: (215) 898-8611

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