Vice President Joe Biden just wrote a heartfelt apology letter to the victim of Brock Turner, the convicted sexual assailant and former Stanford swimmer.
Biden's words don't make up for the fact Stanford University hasn't given this brave woman a formal apology, but they do capture how many people are feeling about this abhorrent situation.
The vice president wrote,
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... You are 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.
This letter comes in the wake of a petition for Stanford University to publicly apologize to the survivor of this disgusting assault, while also offering her counseling and improving resources for sexual assault survivors on its campus. As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had nearly 80,000 signatures.
Like too many universities across the US, Stanford has a terrible reputation when it comes to dealing with instances of sexual assault.
Accordingly, the Brock Turner case has ignited outrage countrywide, as many Americans are understandably disgusted by both the nature of this incident and the inadequate response.
Turner was a freshman on the Stanford swim team when he was caught raping an unidentified unconscious woman behind a dumpster. He's been convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault, and sentenced to six months in prison.
Turner could've gotten 14 years, but the judge disgustingly took pity on him while his father made excuses for his son's deplorable conduct.
Six months might seem like a lenient punishment, and it is, but it's actually longer than the sentences most rapists receive, which is enraging. Even worse, Turner will only serve half of that sentence so long as he keeps a "clean disciplinary record."
The sad fact is we live in a country where rape culture is a national epidemic.
Instead of offering survivors the support they need, our society's frequent response to instances of sexual assault is to find excuses for the perpetrator or to greet accusations with suspicion.
It's no wonder a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows an estimated 211,200 rapes and sexual assaults went unreported to police each year between 2006 and 2010. Why would anyone report being a survivor of sexual assault when they know they will likely be ridiculed and dismissed for doing so?
As a country, we should be ashamed of ourselves for perpetuating a victim-blaming culture that makes women whose bodies are violated afraid to seek justice and support.
This is precisely why Vice President Biden wrote,
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. 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. 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.
The survivor in the Brock Turner case, who understandably wishes to remain anonymous, recently released a letter to her assaulter. It's safe to say her words were among the most courageous you will ever read, and will continue to have a palpable and positive impact.
As Biden put it,
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.
There is no excuse for rape. Period. But, even more so, there is no excuse for not doing everything we can to aid survivors.
Sadly, women in America who feel afraid every single time they walk out the door are completely justified. Until that changes, we will never live in a truly free and equal society.
Click here to read Vice President Biden's full apology letter to the survivor.