The founder of the Me Too movement spoke up on Tuesday to explain what she believes is an “inconvenient truth” about the sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
Tarana Burke, who founded Me Too in 2007, said former congressional aide Tara Reade’s accusations against Biden are being felt differently because of the 2020 election, which will now feature two men in powerful positions who have been accused of sexual assault.
But first, she made clear where she stands with any survivor of sexual assault in a series of tweets.
“My stance has never wavered: survivors have a right to speak their truth and to be given the space to heal,” she wrote.
“The inconvenient truth,” Burke added, “is that this story is impacting us differently because it hits at the heart of one of the most important elections of our lifetime. And I hate to disappoint you but I don’t really have easy answers.”
Reade is one of eight women who have come forward to accuse Biden of touching them inappropriately at various times in his political career.
Reade said then-Senator Biden assaulted her in 1993 while she was serving as an aide. In a podcast interview with Katie Halper in March, Reade said he kissed her and penetrated her with his fingers without her consent.
Reade told Halper that she pushed Biden away, which allegedly prompted him to say, “Come on, man! I heard you liked me.”
Then, Reade said, Biden pointed at her and said, “You’re nothing to me.”
The accusations come as Biden recently became the last Democrat standing in the race for party’s presidential nomination. His campaign denied the claims against him in a statement to HuffPost in late March.
“Women have a right to tell their story, and reporters have an obligation to rigorously vet those claims,” Biden spokesperson Kate Bedingfield said in a statement to HuffPost at that time. “We encourage them to do so, because these accusations are false.”
On Twitter, Burke said Reade, like other survivors, has had to rely on journalists and mainstream media to have her voice and accusations heard ― “precisely because the systems for survivors are not in place.”
Burke then suggested that Biden could be both “accountable and electable” for Democrats in the 2020 election, adding that the former vice president faced a “learning curve” when it comes to respecting women’s boundaries.
“The defense of Joe Biden shouldn’t rest on whether or not he’s a ‘good guy’ or ‘our only hope.’ Instead, he could demonstrate what it looks like to be both accountable and electable,” she wrote.
“Meaning, at minimum, acknowledging that his demonstrated learning curve around boundaries with women, at the very least, left him open to the plausibility of these claims,” Burke continued. “No matter what you believe, we are allowed to expect more of the person running for U.S. President.”
Burke also suggested that the current judicial system doesn’t allow for a “transformative approach to dealing with claims of sexual violence” that supports “both accountability and healing.”
Some activists have criticized what they see as a lack of support for Reade ― and a failure to strongly condemn Biden ― in the weeks that followed her decision to describe the alleged assault in full detail.
When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was defending herself to Congress after alleging that then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had assaulted her in the early 1980s, many members of the Me Too movement stood behind Ford and offered full-throated support.
Days after Kavanaugh was confirmed as a justice, Burke wrote Ford a public letter, praising her heroism and ability to face “the patriarchy with no weapons other than her voice, her body, and the truth.”
Actress Rose McGowan, who emerged as an outspoken advocate for the Me Too movement in 2017, aired her concern on Twitter this weekend.
“Where are the #SilenceBreakers? Where is Tarana Burke? Where is #MeToo,” she tweeted Sunday.
In her Twitter thread, Burke explained that she had taken some time off from her activism because she had family affected by the current coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
Burke also cast doubt on the intentions of those who have a heightened interest in Reade’s case, suggesting that they were actually more interested in Biden’s political demise.
“Most people weighing in at the moment don’t actually care about transforming a culture of sexual violence,” she wrote. “Many of you are only interested in this story because you are entertained by the trauma of others or because it has the potential to be politically expedient ― with no real regard for the survivor.”
To that end, Burke said that survivors “deserve more than being used as a political football by disinterested parties.”
Read Burke’s full thread here.
The headline of this article has been updated to clarify the context of Burke’s tweets.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.