The independent news organization of Duke University

I believe Tara Reade

feel your feelings

Editor's note: Content warning: this column discusses sexual assault.

*

I haven’t watched Tara Reade’s interview, but I know what she said. And I believe her.

While Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford testified before Congress in the fall of 2018, I sat myself on a bench in the sunshine on the Brooklyn Promenade. I read a really good book by two powerful women. I ate a PB&J. I got cheap rush tickets to a show full of beautiful music and grabbed a falafel wrap on the way to the theater. All day, I left my notifications muted.

I found myself questioning my choices as the day wore on. My body reacted viscerally every time I thought of what happened to Dr. Ford, what was happening to her on Capitol Hill. Was I allowed to treat myself this gently when a woman not very far away from me was being treated so violently? Did I not owe her my attention—this person doing the bravest, scariest thing I could imagine? How weak was I that I couldn’t endure simply bearing witness to this story?

When I left the theater, walking through a crowded Times Square on the way to the Subway station, I found my answer. Broadcasted on those impossibly-huge scrolling screens was a senator from my home state. He was saying terrible things about this brave person, his face and his words bigger than anybody’s should ever be. The news report flashed back to the picture of this brave person with her hand up, eyes closed, his horrible words playing over her terrified face.

I stood frozen, people moving all around me, sick to my stomach. Then my heart spoke to me. 

You don’t have to watch this brave person be torn apart. You just have to believe her.

I took a deep breath, and I said to whoever’s listening, please give Dr. Ford all the love and strength and peace and good meals and deep breaths and kind letters and warm blankets in the world. Then I went home.

When I heard about Tara Reade, I went outside to sit in the sunshine and look at my seedlings. I planted a garden a few days after I lost my last two months of college, the new little plants reminding me that time keeps passing, that in chaos, things still grow. I touched the impossibly strong beanstalks, the spindly little chive and onion seedlings, the tiny oregano and basil sprouts, the wet soil. I thought about whether a stronger person could have watched her interview. My heart spoke to me again.

You don’t have to watch this brave person be torn apart. You just have to believe her.

Alone in my backyard, in a place I wasn’t supposed to be living, a place I won’t be leaving anytime soon, almost nothing resembles that crowded Times Square in 2018. An election I used to follow closely seems almost laughably small in the face of a crisis like nothing we have ever seen: a crisis exacerbated by the president elected my freshman year of college, the president whose actions and inactions are killing people my senior year. Will we even vote in November? What will this world look like when we do?

There’s another crucial difference between Dr. Ford and Tara Reade. I did not want Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. I disagree with him, and with that senator from my home state, on nearly every issue. I believe Dr. Ford because I believe women when they say that they have been victims of sexual violence. 

But it was also politically convenient for me to believe her.

I disagree with Joe Biden on many issues. I believe that there were better choices in the Democratic primary, and I voted that way. With his ever-increasing delegate lead, though, I was begrudgingly becoming accustomed to the idea of casting my vote for him in November. As much as I remain opposed to much of his past and current work, I believed fewer people would be harmed by his presidency than would be harmed by another four years of Donald Trump in office. I still believe that. 

But I now know that no matter what happens in November, the Oval Office will almost certainly be occupied for the next four years by a perpetrator of sexual assault.

This is not the first election where voters have had to choose between two candidates who have caused direct harm. Black, Brown and Indigenous voters have had to choose between the lesser of two evils—the person less likely to rob them of their freedom and dignity—in nearly every election where they have even been able to cast a ballot. 

It would be politically convenient for me to forget Tara Reade, to ignore the harsh reality about this member of my team. Many people on my team have already made that choice. I understand it. But I will not do the same.

In her stunning memoir, Chanel Miller recalls what happened when Dr. Ford spoke on Capitol Hill that fall day in 2018: “She had every reason to stay hidden, but stepped straight into the most public, volatile, combative environment imaginable, because she possessed the single thing she needed, the truth.”

“The barricades that held us down will not work anymore. And when silence and shame are gone, there will be nothing to stop us. We will not stand by as our mouths are covered, bodies entered. We will speak, we will speak, we will speak. There was a line survivors had been taught never to cross. She crossed it, the moment she lifted her hand.”

There was a line survivors have been taught never to cross. Tara Reade crossed it when she spoke up about the person who might be our president one day.

She had every reason to stay hidden. Her truth is inconvenient. It’s not what the people on her team wanted to hear. She spoke anyway.

I haven’t watched her interview, but I know what she said. 

I believe Tara Reade.

Liddy Grantland is a Trinity senior who believes everyone should go read Chanel Miller’s book right now. Her column, feel your feelings, runs on alternate Tuesdays.

Discussion

Share and discuss “I believe Tara Reade” on social media.

Trending