It’s a scary time

The number of famous men accused of sexual assaults recently is astounding—Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Joe Biden.

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Image Credit: Screenshot ABC News

“It’s a scary time,” Trump says. But he means it’s a scary time for men accused of sexual assault, not of women made victims of such assault.

The number of famous men accused of such assaults recently is astounding. Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Joe Biden. Joe Biden became the most recently accused when Tara Reade named him for assaulting her in the early 1990’s. We all knew that he was “touchy feely” around young women and girls, but hers was the first accusation against him for full on assault. “In his closely documented, almost 50-year career, there have been no other similar claims against Biden. The Times interviewed the other seven women who came out last year to accuse Biden of touching them against their will; none said his behavior crossed the line to sexual assault.”

Ms. Reade had joined other women in accusing him of  “touchy feely” actions in 2019 but accused him of assault for the first time on March 25, 2020.  The Times reported that “Mr. Biden pinned her to a wall in a Senate building, reached under her clothing and penetrated her with his fingers. A friend said that Ms. Reade told her the details of the allegation at the time. Another friend and a brother of Ms. Reade’s said she told them over the years about a traumatic sexual incident involving Mr. Biden.”  

“Ms. Reade, who worked as a staff assistant helping manage the office interns, said she also filed a complaint with the Senate in 1993 about Mr. Biden; she said she did not have a copy of it, and such paperwork has not been located. The Biden campaign said it did not have a complaint.”

“Ms. Reade made her new allegation public as Mr. Biden was closing in on the Democratic presidential nomination after winning a string of primaries against his chief rival, Senator Bernie Sanders. Ms. Reade, who describes herself as a “third-generation Democrat,” said she originally favored Marianne Williamson and Senator Elizabeth Warren in the race but voted for Mr. Sanders in the California primary last month. She said her decision to come forward had nothing to do with politics or helping Mr. Sanders, and said neither his campaign nor the Trump campaign had encouraged her to make her allegation.”

Bernie Sanders has said specifically (after dropping out of the race and endorsing Biden) that Reade has a right to have her claims heard and that they are relevant. Alexandria Occasio-Cortez has agreed.

In a related but entirely different matter, the Times reported last September that Brett Kavanaugh, accused of sexual assault during hearings to approve his nomination to the Supreme Court, had an additional accusation after his nomination was approved…  

“The allegations from Deborah Ramirez, who was a freshman at the time, first surfaced during Kavanaugh’s heated Senate confirmation hearings. It was at those Senate hearings, that Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of trying to rape her at a house party in 1982 in a gripping testimony that sparked many women to come forward with their own stories about sexual assault.

“During the hearings, Kavanaugh had suggested that Ramirez’s accusations would have been “the talk of campus” if they were true. The Times’ report alleges that it was.

“Per the Times: 

“At least seven people, including Ms. Ramirez’s mother, heard about the Yale incident long before Mr. Kavanaugh was a federal judge. Two of those people were classmates who learned of it just days after the party occurred, suggesting that it was discussed among students at the time.”

“Kavanaugh has emphatically denied any and all allegations of sexual assault. He did not speak to the Times about their latest report, because they could not agree on terms for an interview, the newspaper stated.”

Democratic candidates spoke out after these new allegations surfaced.  “Julián Castro tweeted after the new allegations surfaced that “it’s more clear than ever that Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath” and that “he should be impeached.”

Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted that “he was put on the court through a sham process” and that “he must be impeached.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted that the “newest revelations are disturbing” and “like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.”

Beto O’Rourke tweeted that “we know (Kavanaugh) lied under oath” and “he should be impeached.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said on ABC’s This Week that she strongly opposed him, “based on his views on executive power, which will continue to haunt our country, as well as how he behaved, including the allegations that we are hearing more about today.”

Although Trump has suggested that these are “scary times” for young man accused of sexual assault, “Studies suggest the prevalence of false reporting on sexual assault is between 2% and 10%, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.” A prosecutor of sex crimes has written, “My default position is to believe women who say they have been sexually assaulted. Making an allegation of sexual assault is not the type of attention most women want to needlessly bring to themselves. “

And there’s a big caveat to those reported numbers: “Research shows that rates of false reporting are frequently inflated, in part because of inconsistent definitions and protocols,” the resource center said.

For example, some law enforcement agencies might label a rape claim as “false” just because there’s not enough corroborating evidence to prosecute.(Those cases would be more accurately described as “baseless” rather than “false.”) 

In thousands of sex assault cases, evidence isn’t being tested

“It does not mean that some form of sexual assault may not have occurred, but only that from the legal perspective … the case does not meet the legal criteria, or it is ‘baseless,'” the resource center said. 

The FBI and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have tried to improve accuracy when it comes to labeling sex assault claims. They issued guidelines saying certain factors shouldn’t be sole reasons for labeling a report “false,” such as: 

— Delayed reporting

— Insufficient evidence to prosecute

— A victim’s decision to not cooperate with investigators

— Inconsistencies in a victim’s statements

But those are just guidelines, not rules. “While some police departments may follow these guidelines, it is not mandatory, and as a result, many do not,” the sexual violence resource center said. And that can lead to more “false” claims than there actually are. “

So Tara Reade may become the means by which Joe Biden is deprived of the nomination. In a way, that would seem to be his fate. He became the leader of the race when all the others save Bernie dropped out at virtually the same time. This allowed Joe to scoop up their votes, even though there were many who doubted his ability to be president. And eventually, Bernie dropped out, too. Yet rumor hath it that the DNC will choose someone else, perhaps Andrew Cuomo, to take the lead.

I am not that sure I would want Andrew Cuomo as president. I do not if he supports the progressive platform that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren promoted. But if Cuomo enters late in the race, he will almost certainly need to seek the endorsement of Bernie Sanders and the Bernie-ites. My hope is that they will be tough and trade their support for meaningful promises of a platform and a cabinet that will reverse all the Trump changes to our government. And more: we need Medicare for All, as the coronavirus epidemic has demonstrated. And we need the other improvements that the progressives have promoted, including but not limited to an end to sexual assaulting without prevention.  

Let’s start with impeaching Brett Kavanaugh for lying under oath.

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