Since there is, oh, a whole global pandemic occupying our every thought and non-movement right now, I’ve noticed that few people outside Bernie Sanders’ most die-hard supporters seem aware that a serious accusation of sexual assault has been made against our all-but-certain Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden. To be clear, the fact that I noticed does not mean I’m a Bernie Bro. I’m… really, really not.
Ignore the Twitterati mud-slinging that just looks like a demented tennis match between the two Dem frontrunners’ online foot soldiers, both because it’s the opposite of factual and informative, and also because you’re dealing with enough shit right now. If you’d like some measured facts about the situation, here’s a short list of articles that will bring you up to speed.
Alright, now you know that a woman named Alexandra Tara Reade, who worked for Joe Biden’s Senate staff in 1993 has detailed an incident of him getting her alone, pushing her against a wall, and reaching up her skirt to digitally penetrate her without consent.
Biden himself has of course denied the allegation, which doesn’t mean much because men always initially deny it. For probably many reasons, COVID-19 being a significant factor, mainstream media hasn’t delved into this story much, leading Biden’s most outspoken stans to declare Reade’s allegations less than credible. The online vitriol has gotten ugly, not to mention wholly unhelpful to understanding the situation. Biden’s online people are proclaiming this a false rape allegation, despite having little evidence as such, and more importantly, no everloving clue what they are talking about. I decided to dive in, learn how false rape allegations work, and run Reade’s claim up that flagpole. To do this, I’m reliant on Sandra Newman’s extensive and rigorous research.
False rape allegations are rare, yes, but much more importantly, they are formulaic. We’d all do quite well to familiarize ourselves with the extensive research already published on this subject. Thanks to Newman, the work has been done. We should at least bother to learn it.
According to Newman, false rape allegations have specific and glaring red flags: almost all involve dramatic, lurid stories, and frequently, wild and inconsistent changes to the story over time. Furthermore, accusers of false rape possess motivations that fall into one of four categories: Personal Gain; Mental Illness; Revenge; or Need for an Alibi.
What does all this mean? Let’s parse it out.
First, a false rape allegation will almost always be a shocking, violent story, like being gang raped on a bed of broken glass or something equally horrifying. In a 2012 study conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department, they found that a staggering 78% of false rape accusations were also alleged aggravated rape. Aggravated rape is when extenuating violence or threats accompany a rape, like a victim being raped at knife or gunpoint, or also beaten with fists or another weapon, or possibly strangled. You see where this is going, right? This means that if an accuser’s account is something along the lines of, “well, we were back at his apartment after a nice first date, and we were kissing and that was fine with me, but then I told him to stop and he didn’t” then it’s safe to go ahead and assume she’s telling the truth. A fake accuser will leave zero room for interpretation.
Let’s examine the second oft-present red flag in false rape allegations, a wild and inconsistent story. What does that mean? It doesn’t mean she remembered another detail of the story later, or was initially too afraid to include an important part of the story that she offers later. That’s fairly common. It means that key components of the story keep changing, such as they were in his truck, no wait, it happened in his dorm room, oh no actually it was in a dark alley.
Now we move on to the four motivation categories. What do they each mean?
First, Personal Gain. The key here is that the personal gain, or what the person is trying to obtain by lying about rape, is always very specific, and usually a short term fix. This frequently involves, you guessed it, money. We see a large correlation between victims trying to extract settlement money from a rich man or a government by crying rape and people who have committed or attempted insurance fraud; we find that same correlation among people who sue governments or large corporations over minor or questionable injuries, like a stumble on stairs or a tiny pebble in one’s soup. And the people who aren’t after money always want something specific and immediately actionable, like admittance to a psychiatric hospital or a prison transfer.
Second, Mental Illness. More accurately, false rape accusers fall mostly into two narrow categories of mental illness: factitious disorder and Munchausen syndrome. There is a small but consistent percentage of false rape accusers who suffer from severe psychosis, who actually hallucinate an assault that didn’t happen. People with more common ailments of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder are not more likely to allege false rape. They are, however, more likely to be victims of rape.
Third, Revenge. Contrary to salacious and popular media tropes, the revenge sought is generally not the result of regretting a casual hook up or a “he didn’t call me the next day” situation. When the revenge is sought by a woman, it’s usually quite specific and concrete, as in she traded sex for drugs and found the drugs unsatisfactory. Now this is where it gets interesting. Many cases of revenge-motivated false rape cases are actually instigated by men. You read that correctly. When it comes to false rape allegations, yes my dudes, your fellow men are a large part of the problem. Common examples are instances like when a man pressures his girlfriend to falsely report a man she cheated with, or against another man he harbors intense jealousy towards, or something similar.
Fourth, Need for an Alibi. The vast majority of this category is teenagers who panic and cry rape out of fear their parents will punish or abuse them over a consensual sexual encounter. Hey look, another nefarious aspect of Purity Culture. Fun times! Only occasionally will an adult try this to cover up infidelity. It’s mostly teens. And it should be noted that it’s rare for the teens in question to go as far as filing a report; that’s almost always done on their behalf by their parents.
Now we examine Alexandra Reade’s allegations against Joe Biden within this framework, which will help us determine her upfront credibility and whether further investigation should be warranted.
The first element, a dramatic and lurid story, isn’t really present here. Another staffer instructed Reade to deliver Biden’s forgotten gym bag to him, and the alleged assault occurred in an empty hallway. She alleges no extenuating violence or extraneous assault.
Secondly, we examine whether her story has significant inconsistencies over time. 1993 was a long time ago. Much of the insufferable Twitter Biden Hive is claiming that Reade should be dismissed because her story has changed over time. But on closer examination, it really hasn’t. Years ago, Reade claimed she left her Senate staff position in part because she objected when Senator Biden told her to serve drinks at a party because he “liked her legs.” She also told a local Nevada newspaper last fall that while she worked for Biden he invaded her space and made her very uncomfortable by inappropriately caressing her neck. Only last week has she publicly disclosed an actual assault. Biden diehards claim she is changing her story, but she’s actually describing three separate incidents, none of which are mutually exclusive. All three could have easily happened. She just chose, mostly for reasons of fear, to not disclose the most severe episode until now. While telling the assault story, she still maintains the other incidents occurred. That is not the definition of changing one’s story.
Determining her motivations is a bit tougher, as we are not inside her head. But we should try, to see if anything falls in the above mentioned categories.
Personal Gain. Reade doesn’t seem to be seeking anything but to tell her truth. She is not suing Biden, she’s not seeking monetary gain, nor is she reporting this incident to police. There doesn’t seem to be anything tangible or concrete in it for her.
Mental Illness. Obviously I have no idea of Reade’s medical history, but nothing of the sort has been reported. Many Very Online People are making much ado about the fact that a few years ago Reade wrote a now-deleted Medium piece erroneously praising Vladimir Putin. I’ve seen a few screen shots and quotes, and yeah, it’s incredibly misguided and dumb. But it also has nothing to do with sexual assault. There’s simply no link between having a wrong political opinion and making up rape claims. Nor is there any link between having dumb political opinions and mental illness.
Revenge. The Twitter Biden Hive is waving this one around like frat boys who snagged some girl’s panties in a camp cabin raid, simply because Reade is, wait for it, a Bernie Sanders supporter. Sorry guys. Nowhere near a high enough bar. Lots of people are Sanders supporters. That’s not suspicious. Furthermore Reade doesn’t work for Sanders or his campaign, she is not a surrogate, and she will incur no financial or professional loss due to a Biden win.
Need for an Alibi. Obviously not an issue, as the alleged incident occurred in 1993.
So far, I believe I’ve made the case we should find Reade credible in her claims against Biden. Two more facts to bolster this warrant a mention. First, Reade says that back in 1993, when the incident is alleged to have occurred, she immediately told her brother and a friend. Two reporters (Ryan Grim and Amanda Marcotte) have confirmed this. As any journalist can assure you, this speaks to a high likelihood of credibility.
Secondly, because false rape allegations are so rare and occur within such a narrow framework, it is almost statistically impossible for the same man to garner more than one false accusation from two or more women who do not know each other. Joe Biden has eight – EIGHT – claims of sexual harassment against him from eight different women who are strangers. Basically, when a man has more than one claim against him from women who have never heard of each other, it’s an enormous sign that the women are almost assuredly telling the truth.
That’s what we’ve got on this mess. I’ll bid you farewell with a friendly little reminder that we could’ve had Elizabeth Warren!
Best Ever Carrot Cake
- 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tbs vanilla extract
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 3 cups shredded carrots
- 1 cup 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbs whole milk
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans by greasing with cooking spray, then lining the bottom with parchment paper, then greasing the top of the parchment paper and sides with more cooking spray. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, oil, and both sugars until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet. Now add the carrots and mix again just until combined.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean and the top of the center of the cake is springy to the touch. Let the cakes cool completely before removing them from the pans.
- Combine the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. With the mixer on low, gradually add the powdered sugar, then lastly, the milk. You should be good, these amounts work for me every time, but if the frosting is too thin, just add powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it’s the right consistency. If it’s too dry, add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it’s right.
- To assemble: carefully remove the cakes from the pan and peel the parchment paper off. Place one cake on a cake stand or flat plate. Plop a large spoonful of frosting on top of the center of the cake and use an offset spatula to smooth it to the sides. A little overhang is fine. Place the second cake layer on top, then use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake. You can serve right away if you want, but for the smoothest cuts I would refrigerate at least 15 minutes first. This is a *very* moist cake!