Since going national, the story of Stanford Student and convicted rapist Brock Turner has angered millions. Many, rightfully, claimed that his unbelievably insufficient sentence of three to six months in jail further supports the existence of rape culture in this country. While the law may not be punishing Turner in the way he deserves, as this story continues to pick up momentum, it seems clear that the public is willing to pick up the slack.
Now, Vice President Joe Biden has weighed in on the issue, writing an open letter to the unnamed victim of Turner's crime. Biden, who has played integral roles in the 1994 Violence Against Women Act and the current White House's "It's On Us" campaign, which works to combat campus sexual assault, sent the letter to Buzzfeed so that he could commend the young woman for her bravery in coming forward, and express his "furious anger — both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth."
In the letter, vice president Biden says, "I do not know your name — but your words are forever seared on my soul. Words that should be required reading for men and women of all ages. Words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write. I am in awe of your courage for speaking out — for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity. And I am filled with furious anger — both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth. It must have been wrenching — to relive what he did to you all over again. But you did it anyway, in the hope that your strength might prevent this crime from happening to someone else. Your bravery is breathtaking. You are a warrior — with a solid steel spine."
He continues, "And you were failed by anyone who dared to question this one clear and simple truth: Sex without consent is rape. Period. It is a crime. I do not know your name — but thanks to you, I know that heroes ride bicycles. Those two men who saw what was happening to you — who took it upon themselves to step in — they did what they instinctually knew to be right. They did not say 'It’s none of my business.' They did not worry about the social or safety implications of intervening, or about what their peers might think. Those two men epitomize what it means to be a responsible bystander. To do otherwise — to see an assault about to take place and do nothing to intervene — makes you part of the problem. Like I tell college students all over this country — it’s on us. All of us. We all have a responsibility to stop the scourge of violence against women once and for all. I do not know your name — but I see your unconquerable spirit. I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman — full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest. I see you."
Many have taken to Twitter to praise Biden for his words of support.
"We will make lighthouses of ourselves as you did - and shine. " ♥️ Biden Writes An Open Letter To Stanford Survivor https://t.co/HJeAGrk3Ti— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) June 10, 2016
Joe Biden's words in his letter to the Stanford survivor are perfect. pic.twitter.com/550Qz53xl1— Ronke Lawal (@ronkelawal) June 9, 2016
MUST READ: Joe Biden Writes An Open Letter To Stanford Survivor https://t.co/jIQq6k9fTE— deray mckesson (@deray) June 9, 2016
Biden concludes, "Your story has already changed lives. You have helped change the culture. You have shaken untold thousands out of the torpor and indifference towards sexual violence that allows this problem to continue. Your words will help people you have never met and never will. You have given them the strength they need to fight. And so, I believe, you will save lives. I do not know your name — but I will never forget you. The millions who have been touched by your story will never forget you. And if everyone who shared your letter on social media, or who had a private conversation in their own homes with their daughters and sons, draws upon the passion, the outrage, and the commitment they feel right now the next time there is a choice between intervening and walking away — then I believe you will have helped to change the world for the better."
While the victim may never get the justice she deserves, and while Turner will likely walk the streets very soon after his brief stay in prison, we can hope that Mr. Biden is right and that this terrible incident, and its aftermath, forces people all over the world to consider how rape culture affects all of us and how we can better protect young women from criminals like Turner and those who enable them.
(Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)