Joe Biden has penned a powerful open letter to the anonymous 23-year-old sexual assault victim whose court statement in the rape trial of Stanford student Brock Turner has gone viral. The vice president acknowledged that the “nation is not satisfied” with the sentence – a six-month jail term that The Associated Press reports appears to have been shortened to three months – and that those outraged must continue to speak out in an effort to change the pervading rape culture on college campuses.
“You were failed by a culture on our college campuses where one in five women is sexually assaulted – year after year after year,” Biden wrote in the 855-word missive, available in full via Buzzfeed. “A culture that promotes passivity. That encourages young men and women on campuses to simply turn a blind eye. The statistics on college sexual assault haven’t gone down in the past two decades. It’s obscene, and it’s a failure that lies at all our feet.”
Biden posited that this culture too often asked the wrong questions when it came to sexual assault, blaming the victim, when people should be directing one question toward the rapist: “Why did he think he had license to rape?”
Elsewhere, Biden praised the woman’s courage in speaking out. “Your bravery is breathtaking,” he wrote. He wrote that the words in her court statement are “forever seared on [his] soul” and that they filled him 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.”
He condemned the bystanders who recognized that she was incapacitated and yet did nothing to protect her. And he called the two men who stepped in heroes. “We all have a responsibility to stop the scourge of violence against women once and for all,” he wrote.
He also pointed a finger at Turner’s father, Dan, who pleaded with a judge for leniency, claiming that the convicted rapist had already paid a “steep price” for “20 minutes of action.” “You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed ’20 minutes of action,'” Biden wrote. “His son will be.”
The vice president closed his letter by saying that the victim’s statement “helped change the world for the better.”
Turner, a champion swimmer, could have faced up to 14 years in prison. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky said that he felt the convicted rapist’s age and lack of a criminal record warranted a six-month sentence, probation and requirement to register as a sex offender.
In 1994, Biden wrote the Violence Against Women Act as well as helped with the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign, which aims to stop sexual assault on campuses.