US Vice President Joe Biden wrote an open letter to the Stanford rape survivor on Thursday (9 June), describing his "furious anger" at the sexual assault and the rape culture that would force her into "the position of defending your own worth." In the letter sent to BuzzFeed News, Biden said the survivor's message to her assailant "will save lives".
"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," wrote Biden. "Words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write."
The vice president, who is involved in the White House's "It's On Us" initiative against campus sexual assault and who wrote the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, said he is "in awe" of her courage, "for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity." In his praise, Biden called the survivor "a warrior—with a solid steel spine."
"I do not know your name—but I know that a lot of people failed you that terrible January night and in the months that followed," Biden continued. "You were failed by a culture on our college campuses where one in five women is sexually assaulted—year after year after year. A culture that promotes passivity. That encourages young men and women on campuses to simply turn a blind eye."
Biden went on to also praise the two Swedish students who intervened in the attack. "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."
The vice president also took time to criticise the father of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who was sentenced to only six months in prison for the sexual assault. Turner's father penned a letter of his own defending his son for what he termed "20 minutes of action".
The letter, written by Turner's father, as well as letters by character witnesses, have been met with growing outcry. At least two people, including Turner's childhood friend and his high school guidance counselor, have since apologised for supporting him. Kelly Owens, a guidance counsellor at Oakwood High School in Dayton, Ohio said she regrets writing a letter pleading for leniency, adding, "I am truly sorry for the additional pain my letter has caused."
While letters of support for Turner have been criticised, the message his victim wrote has been praised. "Your words will help people you have never met and never will," Biden wrote to her. "You have given them the strength they need to fight. And so, I believe, you will save lives."