Just five seconds into the campaign ad, a narrator makes clear that the image had not captured a celebratory kind of night.

“It was 2004,” says Claire Russo, 40, a former combat veteran running for Congress in Virginia. “I was attending the Marine Corps Ball when I was drugged and raped by a superior.”

Ms. Russo, a Democrat, spent the next few years trying to get her day in court, she says. After the Marine Corps decided not to charge her superior and denied her request to transfer to another base, she took her case to the San Diego district attorney’s office. Her attacker pleaded guilty to sodomy before his civilian trial began and was sentenced to three years in prison. After serving about half of his jail time, he received an honorable discharge from the Marines, according to reports.

As she leans into her history as a survivor of sexual violence, Ms. Russo is aligning herself with a powerful element of the Democratic Party’s identity in the #MeToo era: that it is the party for women, by women. Over the last three years, many Democrats expressed a zero-tolerance stand on sexual misconduct.

But the party’s position grew far more complicated in March, when Joseph R. Biden Jr. was accused of sexual assault by Tara Reade, a former Senate aide. As Democrats have rallied to the defense of their presumptive presidential nominee, Republicans are seizing on the issue, slamming the party as hypocritical for continuing to support Mr. Biden.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released this week, only half of Democrats said they believed Mr. Biden, with four in 10 saying they needed to hear more about the accusation. Among independent voters, slightly more believe Ms. Reade than Mr. Biden and nearly half said they needed to learn more.

In a Monmouth University poll this month, when asked to pick whom they believed more, over a third of independent voters said they couldn’t choose.

“The large numbers of ‘don’t know,’ especially if you have to volunteer it, is huge,” Fred Conrad, a public opinion expert at the University of Michigan, said in an interview. “That’s a red flag — that this is just not something about which there’s agreement, even within political ideologies.”

Read the full article at the New York Times.