Content warning: Sexual harassment
UC Berkeley alumna Sofie Karasek accused former vice president Joe Biden of harassment in a Washington Post op-ed published Thursday.
Karasek, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 2015, alleged that Biden hugged her without permission at the 2016 Academy Awards. The incident was captured in a viral photograph of Karasek and Biden forehead to forehead and holding hands. She recently made her discomfort known publicly through the op-ed, which was published more than three years after the incident occurred.
“As women, we become conditioned to men encroaching on our personal space, and so we brush it off,” Karasek said in the op-ed. “That’s what I did at the Oscars — I silenced the voice that whispered that my discomfort mattered.”
Before writing the op-ed, Karasek was already outspoken as an activist against sexual harassment and as a survivor of sexual assault herself. She co-founded a nonprofit called End Rape on Campus and is an experienced lobbyist for policies against sexual assault.
Biden has been in the headlines for other harassment allegations within the past month. Several women, including a former congressional aide and a former Nevada state legislator, have released statements alleging that Biden made them uncomfortable in encounters with him, according to a Vox article.
None of the women, including Karasek, reported any form of assault. Instead, Karasek cited power disparity and gender roles as the issues for the inappropriateness of the interactions.
According to her op-ed, Karasek waited to publicly share her discomfort because she was inspired by the #MeToo movement and the increased conversations that society was having regarding sexual violence and harassment.
“There was no space for a nuanced discussion of whether that level of intimacy, between a 22-year-old and the vice president of the United States, was appropriate,” Karasek said in her op-ed.
Karasek is now calling on Biden to acknowledge the error in his interaction and “truly take ownership,” not only for her incident but also for the other incidents involving the other women he allegedly harassed.
ASUC Senator Zach Carter said in an email that he believes Biden should be held accountable for his inappropriate interactions.
“I think that Joe Biden needs to understand that his status doesn’t excuse him from respecting people’s boundaries,” Carter said in the email. “If he is to attempt to lead this nation in any direction, it should be done with a consciousness of consent.”
In honor of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Carter’s office is planning to debut its $18,000 Wellness Fund project with a distribution of “Safer Sex Kits” to the Greek community and from the Tang Center. According to ASUC Senator Saakshi Goel, the offices of Senator Amma Sarkodee-Adoo and Goel will also be working on this project.
“I think there is a lot of work being done on education as well as survivor support, but we need to continue these initiatives,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay.