Tara Reade

Tara Reade (left) now, and as she appeared in her youth (right). Her time in politics included stints as an intern for then-U.S. Rep. Leon Panetta and as a staff member for then-Sen. Joe Biden; she has accused Biden of sexually assaulting her while she was working for him.

RIGHT AROUND THE TIME PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AND VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN WERE INAUGURATED IN 2009, a woman in Monterey County decided she was ready to go public with a painful story of domestic violence she’d endured years earlier.

She’d just completed a 10-month program, Leadership Monterey Peninsula, and published her essay, titled “Defying the Rule of Thumb: A Domestic Violence Survivor’s Story,” on an international news and commentary website headquartered at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey.

The essay is by Alexandra McCabe – another name used by Tara Reade, who sometimes also uses the name Tara McCabe. Reade has more recently told a different story, this one about sexual violence, that is impacting the 2020 presidential race.

That story is about an alleged assault by Biden, who she worked for in the 1990s when he was known as Sen. Biden.

Her allegations are that in 1993, when she was told to deliver a bag to Biden in the Russell Senate office building, he pinned her against a wall in a semi-private hallway, put his hand under her skirt and penetrated her with his fingers. He asked her if she wanted to go somewhere more private, telling her he had heard she liked him, Reade says. But when it became clear that his advances were unwanted, she says he pointed his finger in her face and said, “You’re nothing to me” before walking away.

When she recounted the story to former Fox News host Megyn Kelly in an interview that aired on YouTube on May 8, Reade fought back tears describing the alleged assault. Joe Biden has denied the allegations, saying “unequivocally” the incident never happened.

But go back to the personal essay, in which Reade described in painful detail the emotional and physical abuse she and her toddler allegedly endured from her ex-husband. It was published inThe Women’s International Perspective, or The WIP, and more than a decade after it ran, it reverberates powerfully in context of her new accusations.

“I should know what an abuser looks like,” Reade wrote to open the essay. “After all, I was working for then-Sen. Joseph Biden, who sponsored the Violence Against Women Act.

“But domestic violence is an equal opportunity offender. It was something I read about and discussed with colleagues, never knowing I would one day walk into a marriage filled with abuse and pain.”

It’s a breathtaking opening that seems to crown Biden as the pinnacle of a champion of women’s rights, the opposite of an abuser.

But especially given the current circumstances, the opening lines can be read in different way, as an insinuation that Biden sponsors feminist legislation while privately violating women­ – “I should know what an abuser looks like.”

Reade stopped granting interviews after the Kelly interview, but agreed to speak to the Weeklyabout her personal connections to Monterey County, and her 2009 essay.

Asked about the introduction to her essay, she says this: “I wasn’t ready to come forward at that point but I suppose subliminally I wanted to send a message,” she says. “It was frustrating not to live my truth. It’s not my nature.”

Whatever she had intended, Reade’s credibility is now the subject of a national debate and commentary. Inconsistencies in her story have been used to cast doubt. In an ironic twist, one of Reade’s main occupations over the past 15 years has been to testify as an expert witness in domestic violence trials in Monterey County Superior Court – a position in which her task is to persuade jurors that victims of domestic violence often change their stories and it doesn’t make them less credible than they might appear.

In her own case, Reade might not be capable of persuading the jury – in this case, the American electorate and the media – to believe her. And she says she isn’t even interested.

“I don’t really care if people believe it,” she told Kelly. “I’m not here to influence a national election.”

“The first time [Tate] hit me, we had lived in the Midwest all of two months. The subject of the fight was unremarkable – the damage to my nose and jaw was not. But I was pregnant, we were about to marry and had just gotten a puppy. There are always red flags when you’re in a relationship with a batterer. I managed to miss every red flag and probably a few flares. I thought I could make it better.” 
– Alexandra McCabe, “Defying the Rule of Thumb: A Domestic Violence Survivor’s Story,” published Feb. 13, 2009, in The Women’s International Perspective

McCabe, who legally changed her last name to Reade after fleeing from her allegedly abusive ex-husband (she calls him “Tate,” a pseudonym, in The WIP essay) was born in Monterey and grew up in Wisconsin and Georgia. After her time in D.C., which included a stint interning for then-U.S. Rep. Leon Panetta and then working on Biden’s staff, she came back to Monterey County in the mid-2000s and worked at local nonprofits.

From 2006 to 2007, she was the legal services coordinator at the YWCA Monterey County; in that job, she assisted domestic violence survivors with long-term safety plans, court-issued restraining orders, cease-and-desist letters, divorce orders and child custody paperwork.

Even before her time at the Y, though, she reached out to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office and offered her expertise on domestic violence. She had testified about the topic in front of the Washington State Legislature, worked as a victim’s advocate for the King County Prosecutor’s Office in Washington and as a community services manager at the Snohomish County Center for Battered Women.

Reade brought vast experience working with victims, says Monterey County Deputy District Attorney Elaine McCleaf, who handles domestic violence cases. Listed as Alexandra McCabe, Reade appears on a roster of possible expert witnesses that prosecutors send to the defense in domestic violence cases.

She tells the Weekly that her work as an expert witness has helped her heal from her own experience of abuse. “It is an important community service for me,” she says. “It’s a way I channel the restorative justice piece, through helping other people. I explain cycles of abuse. I talk about the cycles of violence.”

Tara Reade

Reade has testified numerous times in Monterey County Superior Court as an expert witness for the prosecution in domestic violence cases. In press releases, District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni (above) has called out Reade’s ability to explain why victims sometimes act in contradictory ways.

Most recently, she testified in a four-day trial that ended on Oct. 31, 2019, with the conviction of a 33-year-old Salinas man for assaulting his wife. At trial, according to a press release from the District Attorney’s Office, the victim recanted and told jurors that she’d lied about how she had sustained injuries to her face.

“Domestic violence expert Alexandra McCabe testified as to why a victim would recant at trial to protect her abuser,” according to the DA’s statement, after the husband was sentenced to 60 days in jail, three years of probation, a one-year treatment class and prohibited from owning a firearm for 10 years.

Per another 2019 press release from the DA in a different case: “Tara McCabe, a domestic violence expert, provided critical testimony which aided the jury’s understanding as to why victims of domestic violence recant, minimize and frequently stay in abusive relationships.”

McCleaf says the majority of domestic violence cases the DA’s office takes to jury trials happen because a victim has decided to recant, or not show up or take the blame and say they started the interaction that led to the violence.

Experts like Reade testify about why domestic violence victims often behave in contradictory ways, or act in ways that aren’t in their best interests.

“We allow the victim to get on the stand and tell whatever she feels the need to tell and we’re allowed to put up any inconsistent statements she previously made, and present police or body cam footage to testify that in a moment of crisis, this is what she said,” McCleaf says.

And then, McCleaf says, prosecutors present expert testimony to explain the disparities and common characteristics among domestic violence victims: “The experts educate the jury that it’s not because (the victim) lied, but because it’s a common phenomenon and you’re torn between being safe and loving someone who beat you up.”

McCleaf has a pool of three or four such experts she calls in cases where it’s warranted. McCabe, she says, “is a veteran in the field of domestic violence and so her breadth of knowledge is huge.

“I’ve never seen her not be able to answer a question and she truly is interested in educating the public and in helping domestic violence victims,” McCleaf says. “I think juries are receptive to someone who is so experienced, knowledgeable and articulate.”

“As the sun descended warmly on the Potomac, I sat in a rented convertible while we drove towards a Virginia cabin. That night, he fixed me dinner and served me Champagne. The next day, the sun was warm as I rested on the deck. Tate brought over a perfect yellow swallowtail butterfly and gently placed it on my knee, careful not to rub the powder from its wings. The irony of his gentleness struck me later as I learned of his horrific brutality to me, [my daughter] Molly and others.”
– Alexandra McCabe, “Defying the Rule of Thumb: A Domestic Violence Survivor’s Story,” published Feb. 13, 2009, in The Women’s International Perspective

When Reade, who now lives in Nevada County, participated in Leadership Monterey Peninsula (which has since shut down and been reimagined as part of a new program, Leadership Monterey County) one of her classmates was Kate Daniels, who formerly worked as chief of staff to County Supervisor Mary Adams. Before that job, Daniels was the founding editor of The WIP. (Having stopped publishing in 2015, Daniels raised funds to archive the project; Reade’s archived essay is still viewable online.)

That training program and essay for The WIP came after Reade’s tumultuous time working for local nonprofits. In January 2007, Reade – then only known locally as Alexandra McCabe – filed suit along with two other former employees against the YWCA, alleging that the black office manager demeaned them for not supporting her evangelical Christian beliefs, and for being racist against them for being white – conduct, the lawsuit alleged, that was condoned by the Y’s then-executive director Patricia McFadden.

The suit claims that office manager Jacqueline Neely referred to McCabe as “too white,” and also alleges that Neely gave herself cash advances on the company credit card, and that McFadden gave herself a raise without board approval.

McFadden and Neely retaliated against McCabe when she complained, the suit says, by denying her vacation time and declining to pay her health insurance deductible.

According to court records, Charles Swanston, the attorney representing McCabe and a co-plaintiff, filed for their portion of the case to be dismissed on Sept. 25, 2007. Superior Court Judge Robert O’Farrell ordered the defendants to pay the plaintiffs $20,000 in fees and costs; it’s unclear if any other settlement was arranged. (Swanston did not return calls requesting comment.)

Tara Reade

Tara Reade served as executive director of Animal Friends Rescue Project from 2007-2009, until the board moved to terminate her, a former board member says. Reade adopted three pets from AFRP: two cats, Little Bear and Bumpy, and a dog named Princess Grace.

After the Y, Reade worked as executive director of the nonprofit Animal Friends Rescue Project from 2007-2009. One former board member, who spoke to the Weekly on background, says AFRP had moved to terminate Reade. But Reade threatened to sue; the organization instead reached a separation agreement with Reade and she departed.

“Her M.O. is to be litigious,” the former board member says. “Doing litigious things is her way of reacting to things where she doesn’t feel like she’s in control.”

Daniels, meanwhile, declined to comment, saying she preferred to let Reade’s essay in The WIPspeak for itself.

“Years later as I accept my diploma from law school, I look into my daughter’s jubilant face in the audience as she yells my new name. I am free. That night, Molly and I celebrate our good fortune. Cleo curls around us, purring. The rain gently mists over the Seattle skyline and we are finally, no longer afraid.”
– Alexandra McCabe, “Defying the Rule of Thumb: A Domestic Violence Survivor’s Story,” published Feb. 13, 2009, in The Women’s International Perspective

Reade’s story today is different than the one she told when she first went public in 2019. Her initial accusation, that while she was on Biden’s staff that he would comment about her appearance and touch her neck and hair in public in ways that made her feel uncomfortable, differs vastly from her more recent statements.

Reade isn’t the first woman to describe Biden’s behavior as problematic. Seven women came forward last year, in the run-up to the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, to say Biden had kissed, hugged or touched them, uninvited.

(That’s not to compare Biden’s behavior to that of President Donald Trump, whose alleged sexual misconduct has been well documented – and some of which he has not only admitted to, but bragged about.)

From Reade’s perspective, much of her life’s work and behavior follows logically from the trauma she says she’s felt but only recently revealed. She points to her advocacy on behalf of animals of domestic abuse survivors:

“I have always gravitated toward trying to protect those who don’t have a voice,” she says. “It is probably channeling restorative justice. I channel that energy to protect others.”

Tara Reade, aka Alexandra McCabe: A Timeline


Feb. 26, 1964: Tara Reade Moulton is born in Monterey County. At age 3 months, Reade moves out of California. Her late mother, Jeanette Altimus, was an artist on Cannery Row.

Early 1990s: Serves as a congressional intern in the office of U.S. Rep. Leon Panetta.

December 1992-August 1993: Serves as an aide in the staff of U.S. Sen. Joe Biden.

1994-1996: Works as a staff assistant for California State Sen. Jack O’Connell.

2004: Graduates from Seattle University School of Law.

Mid-2000s: Moves to the Monterey Bay area.

2007: Files a lawsuit against her employer, YWCA Monterey County, claiming workplace discrimination and harassment.

2007-2009: Serves as executive director of nonprofit Animal Friends Rescue Project in Pacific Grove; her position ends after the board moves to terminate her.

2009: Completes the 10-month training program Leadership Monterey Peninsula.

Feb. 13, 2009: Publishes a personal essay about her experience with domestic violence in The Women’s International Perspective, a local web-based publication on global affairs.

Early 2010s: Co-hosts a weekly radio show called Soul Vibes, on the now-defunct local station KNRY.

2010-2011: Works as an education instructor at Hartnell College.

2012: Files for bankruptcy. The list of people she owed money to, according to court documents, includes many local entities: Aladdin Bail Bonds in Salinas; Animal Hospital at the Crossroads, Central Coast Cardiology, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Cottage Vet Care, Credit Bureau of Monterey, Credit Consulting Services in Salinas, Grove Market, Hartnell College Parking Enforcement, Monterey Bay Urgent Care, Monterey County Revenue Division and Oceanview Vet Hospital.

2013: Starts a GoFundMe campaign for her local nonprofit, Gracie’s Pet Food Pantry.

2014-2016: Volunteers for Pregnant Mare Rescue in Watsonville, then leaves amid accusations of wrongdoing.

2017: The U.S. Internal Revenue Service revokes the status of her nonprofit Gracie’s Pet Food Pantry for failure to file Form 990s (filed by nonprofits) for three consecutive years.

April 3, 2019: Publicly accuses Joe Biden of inappropriately touching her in 1993 while he was her boss.

October 2019: Testifies as an expert witness in Monterey County Superior Court in the trial of a man convicted of assaulting his wife.

March 25, 2020: Accuses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her in 1993.

May 7, 2020: Interviewed by Megyn Kelly on YouTube.

The Expert Witness and Joe Biden

Asaf Shalev is a staff writer at the Monterey County Weekly. He covers the environment, agriculture and K-12 education, as well as Seaside, Marina, Sand City, Big Sur and Carmel Valley.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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(5) comments

Marilyn Galli

What does Tara Reade's history have to do with sexual assault by Joe Biden?

Eric Hamell

Unfortunately Reade's "expertise" is ideological rather than evidence-based. The founder of Britain's first shelter for battered women, Erin Pizzey, has recounted how she was subsequently driven out of her own organization by feminists who couldn't stand her truth-telling about the often two-way character of violent relationships:

https://domesticviolenceresearch.org/pdf/Overviewof%20Findings.Dec.7.pdf, pp. 8-10

https://honest-ribbon.org/domestic-violence-law/refuting-40-years-of-lies-about-domestic-violence/ (I think she's mistaken in describing radical feminism on Marxism; it would be correct to say that it patterned itself on Stalinism, however).

Even the title of Reade's essay is a lie, actually. There never was any "rule of thumb."

Justin Anders

CNN just revealed that Alexandra McCabe did not graduate from Antioch University. Antioch University also stated that there was no "protected program" that she made claims about.

Yet, she has been an expert witness and helped to put people in jail. Is this legal?

Eric Hamell

She seems to have a long history of lying, often for purposes of emotional manipulation. You can read about it here: ascammersnightmareisjustice.blogspot.com.

Jabroni Ibsen

this is not a reputable source, but a blog

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