Note: This article contains triggers for sexual assault, sexual violence, rape, and trauma.
Tara Reade alleges that, in 1993, Joe Biden pinned her against a wall and inserted his fingers into her vagina. That is sexual assault. When Ms. Reade’s accusation first became public, I believed her, as I am inclined to believe anyone who comes forward. Politics did not, and does not, enter into this for me. I do not believe people based on who they accuse, I believe people because I am a five-time survivor of sexual assault and rape.
Details from each of those assaults live in different corners of my memory palace. The color of the bra I was wearing when, at age fifteen, a teacher tried to rape me in his car. The song that was playing before the drugs a boy I was dating had put in my cider kicked in. The Babar tee shirt I was wearing when a stranger raped me the parking lot of a bar. The place I went in my mind when a long-time partner raped me while I was menstruating. What the last man who raped me said about shaving my legs if I was “expecting to have sex.”
I’ve spoken to hundreds of survivors, men and women, who all have details like mine tucked away in the dark shadows that come with trauma. I’ve spoken to survivors who went to the police, or to their college administration, or their boss, or Human Resources. I know a woman who was gang raped when she was in the Army. I know a man who was drugged, kidnapped, and brutalized. I know men and women who were trafficked.
I believed Tara Reade. Even though she couldn’t remember things, and yes, even though she was accusing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. But at some point, my gut began telling me something different.
The teacher who assaulted me in his car was employed by Children’s Theatre Conservatory School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was a student there from summer of 1981 until late spring of 1984. When I moved back to Minnesota with my husband seven years ago, I tried to go into CTC. I made it as far as the lobby, had a panic attack, and ran out. A few years later, I managed to go all the way into the theater, and even took a look at the light booth, where I had spent most of my time as a technical theater student. When I arrived home, I threw up.
In the decades between the assault and finding the courage to walk through CTC, I had never said, posted, or written, one positive thing about either Children’s Theatre or that teacher. Ever. So discovering glowing and positive tweets Tara Reade had posted about Joe Biden was disturbing.
People survive sexual assault differently. People cope with the aftermath of sexual assault differently. I never told anyone what happened to me until I was in my thirties. Once I did, everything poured out of me. It was terrifying and freeing and incredibly difficult, both for me, and for the loved ones who listened. But the one thing I did not do was ever alter my story.
The details of my assaults don’t change. My bras was white, the song was “Talking In Your Sleep” by The Romantics, the Babar shirt had been a gift from a friend, I went to the ocean in my mind, and yes, the last man who raped me was put off by the fact that I hadn’t shaved my legs. To this day, I cannot wear a white bra, and if that song comes on, I start to shake.
Tara Reade’s details have changed dramatically in a very short period of time.
Again, people cope with sexual assault differently, but the one thing we all carry with us for the rest of our lives are those details. Some are horrible and violent, others are smells or sounds, and some are so small, it’s astonishing they can trigger what they do. We often live with PTSS, chronic depression, chronic anxiety, we struggle with our self-esteem, and we have trouble understanding our place in the world.
Finally, predators rarely, if ever, stop at one victim, especially predators in positions of power. Look at Donald Trump. Twenty-five women have accused him of sexual assault, rape, inappropriate sexual conduct, and sexual harassment. Donald Trump is a serial sexual predator. Joe Biden has apologized for his lack of boundaries and his unwanted physical contact with women, and he has never been accused of sexual assault until Tara Reade’s allegation. My gut tells me he is not a sexual predator. Which means Tara Reade is not telling the truth.
I feel awful typing that, I feel guilty, I feel as if I am betraying something. In the end, this is all just the opinion of one woman, one survivor, one activist. I’ve marched with survivors, I’ve protested with survivors, I’ve interviewed survivors, I’ve held survivors as they cried, I’ve broken my silence to strangers and friends, lawyers, mediators, and therapists. And all of that experience, all of those moments, the entire tapestry of trauma that is my life, leads me to believe that Tara Reade was not assaulted by Joe Biden.
I could be wrong about all of this, and if I am, if the evidence proves Tara Reade is telling the truth, I will apologize, and energetically support her.
If you need support, please visit RAINN.org.