[Commentary] Tara Reade’s Bad Timing Isn’t Her Problem — It’s Ours

WBUR Radio (NPR affiliate)

April 30, 2020

By Leigh Gilmore

Tara Reade’s allegations about Joe Biden could not come at a worse time.

As the nation grapples with the twin emergencies of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump presidency, voters are now split over whether to demand a hearing for Reade’s decades-old claim or close ranks and defend Biden. As many of us struggle to focus on anything more than the virus and Trump’s massive mismanagement of it, the stakes feel impossibly high: silence a survivor or weaken Trump’s challenger.

Reade alleges that Biden sexually assaulted her almost 30 years ago when she worked for him. Biden denies the allegations. She did not file a police report at the time, but has, through the years, told a changing story of a disturbing sexual experience with an unnamed senator. Last year, Reade joined a group of women who said they had been inappropriately touched by Biden.

While the story has failed to gain traction during the pandemic, a new supporting account by Reade’s neighbor at the time of the assault has prompted many, including MeToo founder Tarana Burke, to make statements that survivors deserve a hearing. Reade’s allegations resurface as Biden rolls out a series of high-level endorsements, including an online town hall with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday addressing how women, and especially victims of domestic violence, are impacted by COVID-19.

What we have to do is listen — not only when it serves a political agenda, but precisely when it seems too costly politically to do so.

But we should be clear: As long as there are no fair processes for reporting — not 25 years ago for Tara Reade and not now — survivors will always interrupt the main story. They dredge up the past, dragging us with them into the complexity of trauma and injustice. But bad timing is not survivors’ fault and no one should demand they wait for a better time before speaking out.

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