‘You have helped change the culture.’
Image via CC (credit: Mark Nozell)
On a day when both President Obama and Vice President Biden are trending topics on Twitter, you’d assume it was for the same reason. But while Obama made headlines for his endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, Biden was making news for a much more private, and perhaps, more profound gesture.
In an open letter to the Stanford rape victim whose story has captured the attention of the nation, Biden said the account of her assault by 20-year-old Brock Turner was “forever seared my soul” and that “you were failed” by a criminal justice system which imposed a six-month county jail sentence on her attacker. He also applauded the woman whose “name I do not know” for her bravery in speaking out and said he’s encouraged by everyone who shared her own letter on social media, or used it as an opportunity to start a conversation about putting an end to sexual assault and the stigma that often surrounds its victims.
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 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 continues in the open letter. "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."
You can read the full, powerful open letter at BuzzFeed, which first obtained a copy of the text, while noting Biden was author of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act in the U.S. Senate.
And as the New York Daily News points out, Biden also took time to applaud the two Swedish men who heroically stepped in to stop the assault when they saw it taking place:
"Those two men epitomize what it means to be a responsible bystander," he wrote. "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.”