Still, where things stand now, it’s hard to compare Blasey’s case with Reade’s. Blasey had four sworn affidavits from people whom she’d told that she’d been assaulted, as well as therapist’s notes and the results from a polygraph. She testified, and was cross-examined, under oath. The Democratic plea, at the time, was for a thorough F.B.I. investigation.
Initially, Democrats were credulous when the now-disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti introduced another accuser, Julie Swetnick, but many eventually realized her story didn’t hold up. In the end that allegation probably helped Kavanaugh by discrediting Blasey’s case against him. The episode showed that everyone is best served when “believe women” is taken as a starting point rather than a conclusion.
Now feminists are caught in a trap. They don’t want to repeat the errors many of them made when they dismissed Bill Clinton’s accusers, nor do they want to erode the #MeToo taboo against picking apart the motives and histories of women who recount sexual assault. But just as Reade’s story can’t be wished away because it’s politically inconvenient, neither can its contradictions.