Despite the incredibly powerful letter addressed to her attacker that was read in court and subsequently went viral, the anonymous victim of the infamous Stanford rape case was quickly buried by the media’s attention on her convicted rapist, Brock Turner. Frankly, this isn’t all too surprising since her identity remains sealed by the court, whereas Turner’s name and face have been splashed all over the place in an endless cavalcade of coverage. One could argue this is a form of justice, for it allows the public to condemn the former star swimmer in a manner that’s far more severe than his lenient sentence. Yet this also turns Turner into a celebrity of sorts, and that’s not a good thing.
Maybe that’s why, among many other personal and public reasons, Vice President Joe Biden implicitly acknowledged the Stanford rape survivor’s famous letter by writing an open one addressed to her, which was published exclusively by BuzzFeed: “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,” he writes. “Words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write.”
Biden, whose office drafted and spearheaded the signing of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act by President Bill Clinton, is no stranger to the cause. In addition to that particular law and its 2005 re-authorization, the vice president has also been one of the most public faces of the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign — President Barack Obama’s initiative against non-consensual sex, sexual assault and the current culture that accepts these and other injustices as commonplace.
That’s probably also why, as the letter goes on, Biden sounds angrier and angrier that the unnamed victim had (and still has) to endure the ongoing cultural and legal farce that her rape and its subsequent prosecution have been. “I am in awe of your courage for speaking out,” he continues, “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.”
The entire letter is available at BuzzFeed for all to read. However, a few pertinent passages are important to note here — especially when Biden discusses Stanford’s party culture and how it failed her:
Anyone at that party who saw that you were incapacitated yet looked the other way and did not offer assistance. Anyone who dismissed what happened to you as “just another crazy night.” Anyone who asked “what did you expect would happen when you drank that much?” or thought you must have brought it on yourself.
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.
And his assurance that, despite the many failures she’s experienced, her letter has done so much good for the greatest number of people:
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.