Opinion

OPINION: Treat all sexual assault allegations equally, regardless of political ties

by Morgan Tinsley

Editor-in-Chief

With Harvey Weinstein sentenced to prison with a comically timed case of Coronavirus, the #MeToo movement seems to have made great strides in bringing toxic abusers to justice. Many people agree that time is up, and with each day, more men and women feel comfortable sharing their assault stories thanks to #MeToo. It seems we have come to a point in society where victims can find shelter in a safe community after sharing their stories, and many are championing the phrase “believe all women” in order to encourage survivors to speak up. In light of the recent sexual assault allegations against presidential candidate Joe Biden, however, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the aforementioned phrase should be reformed to better capture everyone’s feelings toward survivors: “Believe all women… as long as they support your party’s agenda.”

After former Joe Biden staffer Tara Reade came forward in a Katie Halper podcast last week to allege Biden had sexually assaulted her, major mainstream (and typically left-leaning) media outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN have remained silent about the allegations, instead publishing seemingly pro-Biden articles, including The Top 10 women Joe Biden might pick as VP (CNN). In stark contrast, however, all three media outlets, among others, were quick to cover various assault allegations against President Donald Trump when they arose.

So what’s the reason for the silence? Is it because Coronavirus is taking over the news? Not likely. While news of COVID-19 may be taking up a large portion of news outlets’ stories, they still cover many other issues, so there is ample room and reason to cover such allegations. Another potential reason for the silence some defenders have proposed is that Reade’s allegations are difficult to prove. This is an inherently faulty argument, since sexual assault allegations, by nature, are hard to prove. It’s part of the reason why, despite rape and sexual assault being a prevalent crime everywhere, it’s so hard to prosecute offenders. Allegations simply being hard to prove has not stopped media outlets from covering them in the past, so why now?

It seems the most likely answer is because Joe Biden is doing well in the presidential primaries right now, and Democrats don’t want to ruin his current chances of beating Donald Trump by discussing allegations against him. After all, these same outlets covered allegations against Biden only a year ago. 

It’s important to note that I neither believe nor disbelieve Reade’s allegations. Whether or not Biden is guilty is not my point; I simply want to see the same treatment extended to Biden surrounding his allegations as right-wing politicians like Donald Trump and his Supreme Court appointee Brett Kavanaugh received in the past.

It’s not only media outlets that seem reluctant to hurt Biden’s image; hundreds of Democrats on Twitter have shared their thoughts on these allegations, ranging from blaming Bernie supporters for an alleged Biden smear campaign to outright attacking Reade for sharing her story. The ironic part is that many of these same people defending Biden amidst serious allegations have championed the #MeToo movement in the past. Many of the very women who once confidently urged others to “believe all women” are now not only disbelieving Reade, but viciously attacking her. Some have even claimed she’s a Russian agent and used this to discredit her, citing favorable essays she had written about Vladamir Putin. Others have simply dismissed the allegations, justifying them by pointing out Donald Trump’s more numerous allegations. 

While many Democrats have ignored these allegations out of a refusal to believe them or damage Biden’s name, many right-wing, conservative outlets and supporters have stooped to an equally disappointing level. Multiple right-wing media outlets, who have previously been doubtful and critical of victims’ allegations against Republican politicians, have used these allegations as ammunition against the Democratic party. Just as it’s frustrating to see hypocrisy from the #MeToo-championing left, it’s equally as frustrating to watch the right obsess over these allegations and treat them as undeniable truth, when the track record of the right has shown practically nothing but doubt and criticism towards survivors who accuse notable conservative or Republican figures.

Ultimately, both parties have made it abundantly clear that they will only support and believe women who promote their party’s agenda (whether intentionally or not). To expand this point, both parties have unfortunately made it clear that they do not care about America today as a whole; they only care for those who agree with them. Parties today are incredibly polarized, which has led to the party who claims to believe all women disbelieving women, and the party who claims to be skeptical of allegations blindly believing them. This polarization will only become more pronounced if we continue along this path, which will lead to more hate, harassment, and toxicity, as well as more manipulation and misinformation for each party to blindly consume. 

We can no longer continue to believe (or disbelieve) things only when they benefit our political parties. We must face reality in all cases and extend the same treatment to those from the other side of the political spectrum, or we will stagnate and fail to grow as a nation. So, if you want to believe all women, believe all women. If you want to be skeptical of every alleged survivor, be skeptical of every survivor. Stop believing only who you want to and hating those who you hope are lying – it’s just not how reality works. 

(Sources: The Guardian, Salon)

 

Categories: Opinion, Web Exclusive

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