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Tara Reade Tells Her Story ❧ Current Affairs

Tara Reade Tells Her Story ❧ Current Affairs from @curaffairs
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content warning: sexual assault

Editor’s Note: The following is a transcript of the March 26th episode of The Katie Halper Show, in which Tara Reade, a former staff assistant to Joe Biden, details her story of assault and harassment. Tara is one of eight women who have accused Biden of touching them inappropriately. She first came forward publicly in April of 2019 to state that behavior similar to what Lucy Flores experienced had also happened to her as a staffer, but upon being publicly attacked along with Flores, Tara decided not to tell her full story. In January of 2020, as reported by the Intercept, Tara approached TimesUp, a project of the National Women’s Law Center that provides assistance for sexual assault and harassment victims with claims against employers and powerful men. TimesUp refused to help Tara. The justification they gave was unrelated to her credibility; instead, they said that because Biden was a political candidate, taking her case could jeopardize the organization’s nonprofit status. It is worth noting that TimesUp has ties to Biden campaign manager Anita Dunn.

Because the alleged incident occurred in private, it is impossible to verify absolutely. But Tara told both her brother and a friend, as well as her late mother about what happened at the time. I have spoken with her brother, and while he did not know every detail, he remembers clearly that there was an incident involving a gym bag and Biden putting his hands up Tara’s skirt, that Tara was talking about going to the police, and that their mother was furious about what happened. I have listened to an interview Katie Halper conducted with Tara’s friend in which she confirms being told about the incident at the time, and have also spoken extensively to Tara herself and found no reason to doubt her.

As Joe Biden himself said, “for a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real.” Tara has no stakes in the election; she says she was a Hillary supporter in 2016 and supported Elizabeth Warren in 2020 while she was a candidate. Tara says she simply wants people to know what happened to her. I believe that at the very least, Tara has a right to be heard, which is why Current Affairs is printing her story, in her own words. I recommend everyone read it and listen to Tara’s interview with Katie Halper. The transcript has been edited lightly for readability, but we wanted to present it as intact as possible, so that you may hear Tara’s story in its rawest form. — Nathan J. Robinson, editor


Katie:

Where would you like to start? Where does the story start for you?

Tara:

Well, the story starts when I went to work for Joe Biden. That was in 1992. I was hired that fall, the year that Bill Clinton was inaugurated as our president. Before that I was out West and I had worked on a congressional race. Before I was working in politics, I was an actress and a model and I had studied classically and I really loved the arts and I come from a family of artists and activists and whatnot. And then I got interested in college in political science and I went and interned for Leon Panetta when he was a Congressman and worked on an animal rights issue that ended up being put into law and signed into law. So it was very exciting and it was a very successful experience. 

And then when I applied for Joe Biden’s office, I had a phone interview and then they offered me an in-person interview. And so I went out to DC and I interviewed in person and when I was there, the scheduler interviewed me and Joe Biden happened to walk past. He saw me and she introduced me and we were in the inner, kind of alcove office. And he asked me my name. I told him and he said, “Oh, that’s a good Irish name.” And she offered to him, “Hey, she worked as an intern for Leon Panetta.” And he’s like, “Oh, he’s a good guy.” And then he looked back and smiled at me and said, “hire her.” And the scheduler looked at me and said, “I guess you’re hired.” 

Katie:

What was the position for? 

Tara:

It was for a staff assistant position. So you know, pretty low on the totem pole, but you’re able to work through it. So, I supervised the intern program and made sure all the mail was distributed where it was supposed to be. I would go to a hearing and take notes. So it’s sorta like you just did what you had to do, all hands on deck sort of…

Katie:

And you were how old at this point? 

Tara:

Mid twenties. 

Katie:

And how long did you work for Biden in total? 

Tara:

Nine months. 

Katie:

You would later come forward [about something that happened in 1993] after Lucy Flores came forward.

Tara:

I actually did come forward in 1993 but not to the press. But I went through protocol and complained.

Katie:

What was your complaint about?

Tara:

Sexual harassment. I did not complain formally about the other piece of what happened that I’ll talk about in a few minutes. But I talked about what was witnessed, and the general atmosphere of the office, the way I was treated. Because I would see him at meetings and he would basically put his hands on me, put his hands on my shoulder, run his fingers on my neck… He was very handsy with a lot of people. But like I have said in the press before, it made me feel like an inanimate object. I didn’t feel like a person. He didn’t make conversation with me or talk with me or ask me anything relevant. It was just definitely that kind of vibe. So it was uncomfortable. 

So it was really after that incident when I walked in and everyone was arguing. I [had been] called into the office and I was very nervous because I thought I did something wrong. Like I remember feeling almost sick to my stomach, nervous, like, you know, this was a big deal of getting called in rather than them just coming and talking to me. When I walked in, people’s voices were raised. They were arguing. There was a legislative assistant there, a senior aide. She worked on women’s issues, I believe among other issues. I know judiciary issues for sure. But anyway, she turned to me and she said, the Senator thinks that you’re pretty and that you have nice legs. And he wants you to serve drinks at this fundraising event. And you don’t have to do that, Tara, you don’t, you know, that’s not part of your job. And then the scheduler kind of interrupted her in the middle of what she was saying and then said whatever she said. I can’t remember everything that was exchanged, but basically everyone kind of looking at me and I just froze because I didn’t know what to say to anybody. And I was uncomfortable and I knew that no matter what I decided to do, I was gonna either make my immediate supervisor very unhappy or I was going to look bad in the eyes of the legislative assistant. She was sticking up for me, obviously, and didn’t think I should be objectified. So it was a strange position to be in. And I just left. I didn’t say anything actually. I called my mom and she was very adamant that I document it and file a report and she said, and her exact words were—and I remember because we got into like a little bit of an argument about it—she said, you just march in there and you tell them this is sexual harassment and you file a complaint. And I tried to explain to my mother that that wasn’t easy. You couldn’t just march into Ted Kaufman’s office, who was the chief of staff, and that there was a protocol, that there was a way to do that. And my mother said, you tend to be a little passive sometimes, you know, sometimes you stick up for yourself, but sometimes you let people take advantage of you, you need to stand up and you need to address this. So I already kind of had those feelings. I wanted to look at taking some actions. So I did a non-formal thing by just going to my supervisor. That’s when I was met with some of [my supervisor’s] attitude about the whole thing. Like why wasn’t I complimented, that people would be flattered to be liked by Joe Biden. And basically she was also admonishing me to keep my head down if I wanted to last. She said that a couple of times and she took me in the hallway a couple of times and kind of chewed me out a few times. Nothing was in writing.

But the time frame for me from this event [request to serve drinks and my taking it up with supervisors] to when I met him with the gym bag and the [assault] incident is compressed for me and I don’t know like how much time passed, but I do know a couple things happened between those two events. One that was significant was being told I had to dress differently and that I was too provocative and that was [said] by the assistant and by the scheduler. And they were finding fault with my work all the time, like every little thing. And it was almost to the point where three or four times a day there would be something, something, something wrong. And, my mother, I called my mom just one day in tears, you know, and she was like, you know, this is retaliation. They know that you want to file something. You’re already going through the motions. Because I, I had gone as far as to talk to Ted, to Dennis Toner who was the next person up after [Tara’s supervisor], and Dennis Toner then was below Ted Kaufman and there was just like this protocol you followed. 

I eventually did talk to Ted Kaufman. Dennis really wasn’t even talking to me anymore. It was Dennis Toner that dealt with me up to this point. Working for Biden had been kind of tense…his public persona is very different than what he’s like at work. It’s more like working for a corporation. It’s very top down and it’s very tense and he doesn’t treat staff that well. In my opinion…that was my experience of it. And some other people that were complaining about it would leave abruptly. In fact, the position that I had—they were having trouble keeping a person in it. So I don’t know what that’s about, but that’s one of the things that they made clear at the interview, that people kept leaving. And that they wanted me to stay and asked if I had plans to stay. And I said yes, that I wanted to make a career on the Hill. And that I’d eventually like to run for office someday.

It was this beautiful time—this was before all the scandals, before the impeachment. This is when Bill Clinton first was president. I got to go to the inauguration. I got to go to the inaugural balls because I was working for Senator Biden. And it was this magical time in a sense. I walked the bridge of hope. I met Maya Angelou, which is one of the highlights of my life. And it was just amazing and wonderful. I was like a puppy, with enthusiasm. I was so happy to be there. I just went in with the attitude of doing everything I could to be a good employee. And I was very excited and honored to be there.

Katie:

And so did you serve drinks at that event?

Tara:

I did not… It kind of just went away. I said no, and then when I said no, I sort of got attitude about it. And then, pushed back on another thing that had nothing to do with sexual harassment. I pushed back about the intern program because I was given a stack of resumes by Ted Kaufman, the chief of staff. And he directed me firmly to hire DuPont employees’ children only. And I pushed back and I said we need more diversity and I want to hire some women and I want to hire from other places, like [how] you hired me. And then after this whole conversation, I was like, how did I get hired? I’m not from Delaware. So he said 50 percent, he relented to 50 percent [of DuPont employees’ children]. It was still just strange. So I’d have these interns that were more diverse and working class and then I had these really privileged interns. So that kind of stuff was happening. There were regular work challenges happening. 

Katie:

So how much interaction did you have with Biden?

Tara:

I would see him, on and off quite a bit, but wouldn’t necessarily talk with him. He was always breezing out, breezing in with his people that would stay around him, usually the upper level staff, and they usually kind of kept right with him. But once in a while I would see him and he would just do that thing that guys do, you know, when they look you up and down and then smile and stuff. It just was obnoxious. I found myself getting more and more withdrawn and timid about speaking out because of the atmosphere. And because the scheduler was so closed down [when it came to] hearing about it. One of the things she said to me was, you know, the Senator likes you. You know, most women would really like that attention. She goes, you know, I don’t understand your attitude, like what is the problem? I definitely started feeling like I just didn’t really belong there. It definitely wasn’t a progressive office. I was told to just do what I was told. 

And then it wasn’t long after that, that the scheduler called me in and said, I want you to take this to Joe. He wants you to bring it, hurry. And I said, okay. And it was a gym bag. She called it an athletic bag. She said he was down towards the Capitol and “he’ll meet you.” And so I went down and he was at first talking to someone, I could see him at a distance and then they went away. And then, we were in like the side area. And he just said, Hey, come here, Tara. And then I handed him the thing and he greeted me, he remembered my name. And it was the strangest thing. There was no like exchange really. He just had me up against the wall. I was wearing a shirt and a skirt but I wasn’t wearing stockings. It was kind of a hot day. And I was wearing heels and I remember my legs had been hurting from the marble of the Capitol, walking on it. So I remember that kind of stuff. I remember it was kind of an unusually warm day. And I remember he just had me up against the wall and the wall was cold. It happened all at once. The gym bag, I don’t know where it went. I handed it to him. It was gone and then his hands were on me and underneath my clothes. And then he went down my skirt, but then up inside it and he penetrated me with his fingers. And he was kissing me at the same time and he was saying something to me. He said several things, I can’t remember everything he said. I remember a couple of things. I remember him saying first before, like as he was doing it, “do you want to go somewhere else?” And then him saying to me when I pulled away, when he got finished doing what he was doing and I pulled back and he said, “come on man, I heard you liked me.” And it’s that phrase [that] stayed with me because I kept thinking what I might’ve said [to make him think that]. And I can’t remember exactly, if he said “I thought,” or “I heard,” but it’s like he implied I had done this. 

And for me it was like everything, everything shattered in that moment. I looked up to him, he was like my father’s age. He was this champion of women’s rights in my eyes. And I couldn’t believe that was happening. It seemed surreal. And I just felt sick because when he pulled back, he looked annoyed and he looked angry and he said something else to me that I, I don’t want to say. And I must’ve looked shocked [by what he said]. And he grabbed me by the shoulders and he said, you’re okay. You’re fine. You’re okay, you’re fine. And then, he walked away and he went on with his day. 

And what I remember next is being in the Russell building, like where the big windows are and the stairs by myself and I was shaking everywhere because it was cold all of a sudden. I was trying to grasp what had just happened and what I should do or what I should say. But I knew it was bad because he was so angry. Like when he left, I could feel, you know how when you know someone’s angry, they don’t necessarily say anything. Like he smiles when he’s angry and you can just feel it.  

So then I went home and I called my mom because I didn’t know who else to call and she was wanting me to go make a police report, like right away. My mom was very adamant that I do that. And I said, no. And we had an argument about it. I said, Mom, you can’t do that. […]I tried to bring it up later to the scheduler and she just wouldn’t hear it. She shut me down before I could even get there and [she] said, I can’t believe you’re trying to bring things like this up. And she said, how can I bring this to Ted Kaufman? He’ll just think we’re all on our periods. 

Katie:

Wow. And she could tell you were talking about something more than the harassment or she was just saying that about the harassment? 

Tara:

I can’t project onto like what that conversation was because I was starting to tell her… I didn’t tell her. I started to try to go there and she shut it down. Like I don’t want to hear this. Like that’s enough. Like, you know, kind of basically letting me know like if I didn’t like it I could just go. And so I would see Biden after that, he would just not look at me, he looked angry. You know, someone walks by and instead of greeting you and smiling like they normally do, they won’t look at you. He was pissed. So then the final interaction I had…it was a mandatory meeting where I had to be there and he came up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder and then put his thumb or finger, I don’t even know what, up and down my neck in the back and the back of my hair. And I remember I just froze because I didn’t know what that meant and it just was uncomfortable. And I again told my mom about it because it was just weird and mom said, that’s just power. He’s trying to dominate you. 

Katie:

So this was after the assault that happened.

Tara:

Yeah. Those are the last times I ever really interacted because they put me in a windowless office. I didn’t have the one with a window anymore. And I was cut off from staff. I was not supervising the interns anymore. Literally, my job was to show up and just look for another job. I wasn’t allowed to go to legislative hearings, nothing. So the chronology was that I was then looking for a job. And in June I was volunteering for the RFK Memorial, the 25th anniversary. I did the VIP tent and I was talking to a person in Kennedy’s office who was trying to help me backdoor, to get [Biden’s office] to stop what they were doing. And anyway, technically I think my Senate record goes until August, but I remember leaving before then. I didn’t have a job. I couldn’t get a job. Once word got around unofficially about my trying to file a complaint, filling out a form and stuff, it’s like no one, no one on the Hill…Usually when I would send out resumes, I would get responses right away.

Katie:

I just want to make sure I’m clear on this. You considered reporting the harassment. 

Tara:

I did try to complain about the harassment internally, but I was going through protocol. You go to your supervisor first, then to Dennis Toner, then to Ted Kaufman. I was following the protocol how you [were supposed to do] it, right? Yeah. But they didn’t do anything right. And then it got worse and then that [the assault] happens. So then I went outside and tried and there was like this office set up and I can’t remember if it was in the Rayburn office building…if it was in there…it seemed to me like it was in a congressional office building, not the Russell Senate. Longworth or Rayburn. And it was this little tiny office and you go up and there was literally a clipboard and I filled out a form and someone kind of was just out[side] the window, but it was weird and it wasn’t very confidential and it was just odd. So I filled out the form and I know it existed. They took it and then I don’t know what happened to it. I’ve tried to track that form down and I was told it was probably returned to Biden’s office. So it’s an archival material. 

Katie:

Okay. So, okay. So you, there’s sexual harassment that you witness and experience. You go through protocol, then nothing happens, then you have the incident in the alcove with Biden. You tell your mom, she encourages you to file a police report. You say, no, but I will do something external about the harassment, not the assault. 

Tara:

Right. Yeah. And I thought about trying to talk about it. I did. I tried. I just couldn’t, I couldn’t even now, like I, it’s so hard. I mean, I, I’ve worked as an advocate for domestic violence cases and help[ed] kids…but it’s just, there was no framework back then and to be fully clear, my mom educated me after it happened that it was sexual assault. I felt, I felt like it was my fault, that I did bring it on. 

After the whole serving the drinks thing happened, things got really tense for me and it’s like my supervisor kept finding fault with my work. Like all of a sudden I was doing things wrong. And then she took me inside and sent in an assistant and said, we want you to wear different clothes. You need to button up more. You should wear longer skirts… And she goes, try not to be so noticed or too noticeable. The other person was more awkward about it. She was just like it’s not coming from me, but they’re telling you to wear longer skirts and button up more and you’re a little too provocative. Right. Whatever. So, and I was like, Oh, this is, this is weird. So I told my mom that, and she goes, that’s retaliation. They’re trying to retaliate. You need to document everything. And my mom was very adamant. I was like, mom. And my mom even said, you march in there and you tell them this is sexual harassment and you don’t take it. I’m like, you don’t march into Ted Kaufman’s office, and you don’t do that. And I’m not…I just wasn’t comfortable. I said, I’ll never be able to get a job on the Hill again. And it didn’t matter because I couldn’t. Anyway, so those are my memories of the overarching retaliation piece. But again, it started as verbal complaints and then escalated to written. They did threaten to write me up about what I was wearing and I was just wearing like, suits, your average skirt, sometimes a blazer, whatever. They were nice. I guess I didn’t have that many outfits. I had just a basic wardrobe that I would interchange, but now [when] I look at it, it’s laughable. I was wearing navy blue and black and pinstripe, you know. My mom was forcing me to [take notes on what was happening], and I was even keeping a journal at the time. 

Katie:

Which you don’t have anymore, right? 

Tara:

No, I don’t. I wish I did. I just never thought this would ever come up again. And there’s many things from my youth that I don’t have and I wish I did. She [my mom] predicted that they would retaliate and she was absolutely right. I didn’t think they would. For some reason I just thought it would go away. Like after the drinks thing, I thought, when he gets the message [that] I’m not interested or I’m not one of those people that just wants to try to make contacts that way, it’ll just go away. But it didn’t… It was almost hostile. It was angry. From upper level staff. Like I just wasn’t cooperating the way they wanted me to. So to be really clear, it was verbal [her complaint up the chain of command]. And then after the assault incident, I went outside the sphere of the office for help. And that’s when I sought out that little room [where] I filled out a form. It was just a form and then I didn’t really know what to do after that. I talked to my friend who worked in Kennedy’s office and then she tried to talk to somebody there to see, she wasn’t sure what to do either… 

It still is difficult for me to discuss openly. And back then it was very difficult and I would talk around it. My mom kind of pulled it out of me. I didn’t give her a lot of details at first. It took her like an hour. I called her crying and she was really concerned. 

Katie:

So you called her? 

Tara:

Called her and cried and told her part of it, like talked around it, and then she got me to say the words. 

Katie:

So what did you say? 

Tara:

At first, I said that something happened at work, it was kind of bad and she said, “kind of bad. What does that mean?” And she kept asking me questions. And then finally I said, well, I had an encounter with Senator Biden and it was, I just, I don’t know what to do. And she said, “what do you mean an encounter? What does that mean?”…And then she got impatient. “Tara, just tell me what you’re talking about.” I don’t remember how the whole conversation went from there, She was furious, she wanted to call the police. And then she was like, that’s assault. And I was like, no, it’s not. I [must have done] something, [since] he said, he thought—you know—that I liked him and I was almost defending him. It was bizarre because I was just…I think I was kind of in shock too. And I think that I kept thinking I wanted it to just go away. I wanted it to be back to when I was first in that office and nothing ever happened… I was in denial, I guess. 

Katie:

So both at the time and then moving forward—and I think it’s understandable—it was much easier for you to talk about the harassment than the assault. After Lucy Flores came forward, you shared about the harassment but not the assault. What’s the difference? I just want to make sure that people who don’t get it, get it. 

Tara:

Last April I saw the way the press was tearing Lucy Flores apart and a friend of mine even called me, [a friend] who I had told about the assault when it happened. She said, Hey, you know, on the news they’re saying no employees of Biden came forward, and what do you know? […So in] April when Lucy Flores was being so torn apart in the press and Whoopi Goldberg was making that comment publicly about [how when] someone puts their hand on your shoulder, you just turn around, you tell them, take it off. And I was like, Oh, Oh, that’s cringeworthy. If you work for them, you don’t [do that]. She [Lucy] had been supported by him politically. He was endorsing her so there was a power differential. 

Katie:

The insinuation was like…if this is a guy who does [sexual harassment] so much, why…didn’t people who work for him experience that? That’s what they were saying. 

Tara:

Right? Yeah. And I’ve had more than one person say, Oh, well do you have more women [accusers]? And I’m like, I don’t know. We don’t all talk in a group. That’s so absurd. I guess because of the Weinstein case or other cases, they’re thinking…that we move in a throng. Well, and this is the thing I want to make really clear: this has been excruciating for me because I liked Biden. I mean not in [that] way, right? He was a powerful figure for me. I was his subordinate. I was hoping to have a career in the Senate. I wanted to be a senator. I didn’t want to sleep with one. I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted to have a full career and be mentored. And the people that worked around him were brilliant. There [are] some really brilliant legislative assistants. So it was a collective thing. It wasn’t just him, right? [What’s] excruciating for me is that he’s not some horrible monster. He’s done really good things. And so as you get older, you realize many things can be true at once. Like people do cool stuff and then do really yucky stuff. It’s a hard subject still. And there’s the MeToo movement. It’s still like what happened to me in April when I did come forward, I was just totally decimated online on social media and my reputation was torn apart…

Katie:

So who did you go forward to at this point when you saw Lucy Flores being torn [apart]? 

Tara:

We have a local paper and someone in my writing group knew about it and said, Hey, would you talk to [a reporter]? And, I said, I don’t know. Let me think about it. And [then] I said okay. And …like a week later they called me. I accepted the call and then I even emailed Lucy Flores. I emailed her and said, Hey, I’m sorry. This happened to me…and she goes, really? Would you talk to someone? And [Flores] gave me someone at the Washington Post and then they never really followed up.

Katie:

And what was it like when you told your story at this point? Just the harassment story. 

Tara:

Well, I was going to tell the whole thing… the whole history with Biden… But the way I was being questioned, it made me so uncomfortable that I didn’t trust it. And no offense to the reporters out there, it’s just maybe that’s something that can be learned, how to talk to somebody who got… Because I just really got shut down… And the narrative [they] really wanted it to be was that it wasn’t a sexual thing. Like don’t say it’s sexual. And so I was like, okay, I guess I can’t really say the whole story… It was hard…I was afraid to, and…rightly so because just the portion that came out…oh my goodness… I mean … the paper hadn’t even had the article yet. It was just on the AP wire [I think]. I hadn’t even seen the article yet and I was already getting smeared online… It made me very angry… I received death threats. I received calls in the middle of the night. There was a thread about me called #AlexandriaTraitorReade…And then I was trying to do freelance work and it’s a hard thing …when people Google [my] name, they would find all kinds of weird things said about me… It’s just so political and so loud right now…we’re kind of a culture of gladiators, thumbs up, thumbs down. 

Katie:

I think people maybe don’t get that…there’s a big difference between a physical violation—having someone put their hand inside you—and being asked to serve drinks or being looked up and down or running his hand through your hair. Not that any of those things are good things, but there is a big difference.

Tara:

It was like…the more the boundary was crossed, the more that was there. But I think he was looking for me to be a willing participant as well. And I think he was used to that happening maybe. And I just wasn’t…I had a boyfriend. I went out with boys my own age in their twenties. I didn’t go out with older married men. Not that he was trying to go out with me…I don’t want to misrepresent it. I’m just saying that…[people might say] “why didn’t you tell the whole thing when you did,” but it’s much more of a violation…I can’t. I can tell you that I still have nightmares sometimes, and even now, years later…I mean when you look at it clinically, it seems like, well…it’s a terrible thing, but why not, you know, just get over it. Whatever. But the whole thing was I never got any justice. I never would. I lost my career. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t choose that situation. I didn’t want him to look at me in an objectifying way. By doing that, he minimized me. He minimized my worth at the workplace. He minimized me as a woman and I thought he was a champion of women. So it was for me, not just the violation, but the violation of my principles, of my belief system. I believed in him and he was my boss. He had power over me. So to say no was such a hard thing. And I knew I insulted him and I didn’t want him to be insulted, but it was so awkward. If I had known how the atmosphere was, if somebody had tipped me off—and no one did—I would have never applied. I would have gone to a different office, I would have worked for one of the other congressmen or senators or congresswomen like Maxine Waters, who was in California at the time, [and] because I came from Panetta’s office I was used to the professional office and there was none of that nonsense there… I found out later that there was kind of a known vibe there…he was known to…I didn’t know. 

And so then, okay, so what happens to make [me] tell… the full story now? I think it’s, well, my daughter’s grown… Last April when I told [the harassment]  portion and then got such backlash, I didn’t feel comfortable telling the whole thing. And then I thought, well, okay, I’ll help people in other ways. I’ll help victims of sexual assault. I’ll just help in other ways and that’s what I’ve done before… It’s not like I felt guilty [in April]… When [the assault] happened, at the time, I really internalized it and felt like it was my fault…

Katie:

But this is a different guilt that I was asking about. [The guilt of] “Oh, I have not spoken out about this person…”

Tara:

I wasn’t brave enough. I just couldn’t do it. I felt more…not so much guilty as disappointed in myself that I just [didn’t] have the guts to say the words. But it’s almost like I would try to say the words and I couldn’t get there. I don’t know how to really describe it except it was deeply personal and…it makes you very vulnerable. And I still…I’m sharing the facts, but there are little things that…I keep to myself because it’s no one’s business. It’s not going to be like a police investigation. I’m never going to sue… It’s past the statute of limitations. I’m doing this for the next generation. I’m doing this for my daughter… We need to stop thinking that because someone’s powerful, we can’t speak out… You know, we need that place, that framework to be able to speak out. And that’s why I feel so adamant because I thought he was going to drop out [of the 2020 primary] and he didn’t. And…can you imagine [what it’s like] for me to see the person who did that? And then not only [that he] did that, but he never apologized. He never acknowledged it. He never said, I’m sorry. And even if he’s in denial about what he did and doesn’t remember it or doesn’t want to…the sexual harassment was witnessed by so many people… Why wouldn’t his campaign have called me and said, we’re sorry…they’re supposed to be championing women’s rights. Why wouldn’t they reach out to me? Why wasn’t there some healing or conciliatory action and there never was.

Katie:

So then you…went forward. You came forward to whom? It’s January now…January 2020. 

Tara:

Correct. 

Katie:

I mean at this point Biden wasn’t even doing that well. 

Tara:

No, he wasn’t, but I really wanted to address what he did and… I contacted TimesUp, which is an organization for women that helps them get resources if you apply for legal resources and to help you…they took my case and after they took my case, they contacted lawyers to see if there were conflicts [of interest]. Some replied and then when they heard about the full thing, the full account, they were worried about it… One of them was going to take it, but then two of his partners in another state were working in the Virginia Biden campaign. [He said] if Biden’s…gonna drop out after Virginia, I can represent you… Well then he never did because Biden didn’t drop out, right? Then TimesUp got ahold of me [and said] that their lawyers told them their 501(c)(3) [status] would be at risk because it’s a presidential campaign and it’s too political and Biden was a candidate. And so they said, we can help you, but not with resources. So in other words, I needed a lawyer that would be for free, that would just volunteer their services. [TimesUp] couldn’t give me their platform, they couldn’t do anything as long as Biden was a candidate. 

Katie:

So they were just trying to help you find a lawyer whom you’d have to pay?

Tara:

Yeah. And I didn’t have the resources to do that. So then…I pushed back a little and said I can’t help who the person is that did this, where do I go? And you know, they felt bad. I could tell. And so I don’t know if their organization was pressured by the people that fund it or sit on the board or…they said it was their attorneys, who said their 501(c)(3) would be at risk. And I don’t know why that would happen, but they said the political…I just…let it go because I mean, I’m not trying to trash TimesUp. They’re a good organization doing great work. And they even said they believed the veracity of my story…they want[ed] to help me. And they were trying to [help me] quietly, but they just couldn’t. So yeah…I’ve been standing alone pretty much. And of course one of the questions that was asked me was, well, are there more women? And I’m like, I don’t [know], how would I know this?

Katie:

Right. I mean it’s possible there would be, and that you would know them, but the implication is that if you don’t, then it’s not a real story. 

Tara:

I know. 

Katie:

And of course it’s possible that there are other people like you and they …didn’t [talk about it], I mean, you only shared it with him and your mom and your friend. Right?

Tara:

And my brother, yeah, my family. Yeah, my immediate family. But…that incident I never shared [except to immediate family and a friend]. I was horrified. I was trying to share with my supervisor…but I couldn’t, so I found my outlet through the arts or through horseback riding and stuff like that. And I would just try to be in denial…I really am a peace-loving person,…a vegan hippie kind of person. I just want everybody to be happy. I want people to be in a better space. I don’t want to bring darkness. I kind of felt like talking about it was harmful… One thing that struck me, watching [Lucy Flores] and listening to her…I felt so bad for her because I related to what she was saying. She said, you know, I’m a Democratic foot soldier. Because they were asking why she didn’t come [forward] sooner. What I would say to people is, why don’t we flip the question? It’s not about us. What we do, what we think, what our politics are, what our dreams are. The question is why is he doing that? Why? Well, the question is about the person perpetrating whatever that is. Like what is the pattern of [behavior], why are they doing that?… And I know they’ve tried to get Biden to modify his behavior over and over. I mean…it’s obvious [he is] like he is…and I’m hoping by coming forward with this and I know it’s hard to listen to and it’s hard to live in it, right? But my justice now, the only justice I can have is to be moving freely in the world and to heal and not be silenced. One of the things I talk about being silenced, and when people say, “Oh, why didn’t you come forward?” Well, I tried, I went to media outlets [in] the summer and before January, nobody ever returned my call. Not one. I went to Warren, I wrote a letter to her… And I was supportive of her becoming president. I would have loved to have seen a woman president. I wrote [to] her. What happened—I alluded to it. I didn’t write details, but I wrote there was something wrong here… No response except a form letter to contact my local representative. I wrote [to] Kamala Harris, I wrote [to] AOC—not one person [responded]. I wrote [to] celebrities. I wrote to Ronan Farrow. I wrote the New Yorker, New York Times, Washington Post. And so I want people to know this. It’s not that easy to get your story heard. Not one person answered me, not one. Elizabeth Warren was the only one, and that was a form letter. And I felt so alone and isolated. And the only thing that would happen is once in a while when I would try to put it out on Twitter, saying, Hey, this is wrong, I’m being called a Russian agent, this happened. Biden supporters would just write…you’re a Russian agent, you’re a bot. And it’s being silenced about sexual assault and sexual harassment. It’s like, it’s like a slow death, and I’m not going to let this take me down… Some people will say it didn’t happen and they don’t believe me and I don’t care. The people that need to hear it will, and the survivors that are being silenced that are out there will hear it and they’ll know, okay, we can do this, you can do this. And so I’m telling you, do this, shine a light on it. The last thing people want when they [commit] abuse is to be examined. They don’t want that. 

Katie:

…So there’s the generic run-of-the mill, totally predictable silencing of victims, survivors. And then there’s this other thing, where now it’s a political thing. So now you’re not just ignored, but you’re smeared and I guess this is what always happens. It’s just a question of how people are smeared. 

Tara:

It’s like McCarthyism… And that’s before a lot of people’s time and before both of our times. But people lost their careers and in fact I did too. And retaliation is common from abusers, but he used his staff, he used his power, he weaponized it. And that’s what’s really, really ugly… He weaponized it when I was his employee…they retaliated. That’s against the law besides, put aside everything else, that was against the law, the retaliation.  I don’t even know where to go from here except that for my own sanity and peace, it’s now for the generation behind me and other people. I’m going to take the heat and believe me, no one on the right likes me. You know, I kind of expected trolls or whatever. That’s not…I mean that hurt and then it got a little scary. Right? I got scared… I didn’t know this, but it’s called doxxing…they found out where I lived… Someone said they were coming to my house and [they] were threatening me on the phone. 

Katie:

Did they mention where you live [as in your address]?… 

Tara:

Yeah. He said, I know you live in _____, you know, we’re coming, you’re a traitor, you’d better get Putin to protect you. They said crude stuff to me, I can’t remember some of it. And then I saved one email that was a threat. You know, at first I was just like, whatever. I just wanted it away from me. Now I’ll document it better. I have a law degree, but I don’t practice law…I help nonprofits. That’s what I do. I’m an expert witness for Monterey County, for domestic violence cases. I do that for a stipend. It’s almost like a volunteer thing and that’s kind of how I channel this rage or energy…or just help other people. And I think that’s healthy. I think we all need to hear that right now because we’re all feeling upset about what’s happening as we really should. It’s a very hard time for a lot of people. So what I would say [helps] is sometimes just immersing yourself in something different that has nothing to do with your own life. It helps with healing. 

Katie:

Yeah, that’s true. It’s like an antidepressant to help others. 

Tara:

And restorative justice is just not always possible. And what I’m hoping is that we can get to a place where sexual harassment and sexual assault is not such a stigma where it’s difficult to talk about and that there can be restorative justice. [Where] it doesn’t take 90 women in 40 years to get someone. Like if you’re in a workplace where it’s happening, you can speak up and you’re not going to lose your whole career. [Where] a powerful man doesn’t have the power to do that. Or a woman, there are male victims too.

Katie:

And women victims of women too. Okay. And anything else that you want to make sure you say? I mean, do you want to share that thing that [earlier] you said, “I don’t want to say what he said.” That thing [Biden] said to you [after the assault]. 

Tara:

Mmm, yeah, I can, I guess I could. 

Katie:

I mean you don’t have to.

Tara:

It’s just almost like giving a weapon to them. 

Katie:

How so? 

Tara:

Well, it’s like, I don’t want them to know how much it hurt. I don’t…I don’t want him to know when they…I don’t know. 

Katie:

But that like you remember it. 

Tara:

Yeah. Just, just the…I don’t know. But yeah, I can say it. So how do [you want me to do this], do you want me to go back, how do you want me to…

Katie:

Well, you just mentioned that there was something he said to you that you didn’t want to say. 

Tara:

Yeah. The something he said that I didn’t want to say, and I didn’t want to say it because it’s the thing that stays in my head over and over, like it’s the thing that kind of stayed with me over the years. But he said, when he had me against the wall after he had done, after I pulled away and he had said, “Hey, c’mon, I heard you liked me?” And I knew he was angry right after [that because] he took his finger, he just pointed at me and he said, “You’re nothing to me.” And then he, he just looked at me and he goes, “You’re nothing, nothing.” And then I must have reacted. And I think he only said it twice… but I just heard the word nothing. And…and I must’ve reacted because that’s when he took me by the shoulders and he said, you know, you’re okay, you’re fine. You’re okay. But then afterwards, like it kept replaying in my head…last April when all that stuff came out, I got really, really sad about it. And the thing that I remember most, almost more than the assault itself was just being told I was nothing. And he was right. That’s how people treated me off the street. And I have no platform. I am no one. And to him I’m nothing.

So if people want to know why women don’t come forward, that’s a good example of why. And I’ve been trying to get past it, trying to feel like… I have spent most of my life hiding from powerful men, be it my abusive ex-husband later, or Joe Biden, and I am now at the point where I’m, I just, I’m done. I don’t want this to be someone else’s life. I don’t want my life to be someone else’s life. And that’s a really hard thing to say, but I don’t want someone to live what I went through because it was hard and it was empty. With no justice. And I don’t want that to be repeated. I want—for me, restorative justice would be for someone to be able to come forward, and have healing. And I know there’s a lot of pain around sexual assault. It’s confusing, but my mom really was a wonderful person and she helped me through a lot,  explaining about it not being related to sex as much as power and you know, that was really important because I was able to not internalize that part of it later as I matured. And that’s important for people to hear that are going through this or have gone through this. And the other part, the self-esteem part, that’s just, you know, you have to rebuild that right? And it takes time and sometimes it’s not a linear process… .But you can’t [let] other people’s vision of you be internalized like that. So I learned a lot about not internalizing other people’s stuff and it seems like people like Biden, powerful people like that or just people that engage in that behavior seem very good at deflecting and not internalizing anything. And if you’re kind of the opposite, where you’re empathic and you’re wanting to help people. If you’re an empathetic person, it has a deep effect. It can really impact you.

You know, words are like arrows, they find their mark. And, you know, in my case the words he said to me found their mark. He made me feel like it was my fault. He made me feel like I was insignificant and that I had no power. And I look back at that and I see him talking about running on a platform of “character” and I just want to scream, like I want to scream. “How dare you? How dare you talk about all the things you’ve done for women when I know who you are. I see you, I experienced you and that’s not who you are.” And, yeah, it is just time for all of this to stop. 
So you know… people are going to say “why come out now?” 
Well, I’ve been trying and no one’s been giving me a platform. So thank you for allowing me to speak on your show and I appreciate that because I have tried, so if [people are asking why I didn’t come out sooner], don’t, I’ve been trying for a while. Well, thank you so much. 



Originally posted by Current Affairs on 2020-03-30 20:37:01

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