One of the strongest and loudest advocates against sexual assault, Vice President Joe Biden, has weighed into the Stanford rape case. Biden wrote an open letter to the unnamed victim, in which he said he was "furious" at a broken culture and system that re-victimized the woman in this case and countless others who have been attacked and forced to defend their stories in court.
"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," Biden wrote in the letter, provided to BuzzFeed. "It must have been wrenching — to relive what he did to you all over again. But you did it anyway, in the hope that your strength might prevent this crime from happening to someone else. Your bravery is breathtaking."
The 23-year-old woman Biden addressed in his letter was raped while unconscious at a party on the Stanford University campus. The case drew attention recently after her rapist, former student Brock Turner, was given only six-month jail term, with the possibility of being released after three months, despite facing up to 14 years for the attack. Prosecutors had initially recommended six years in prison.
Part of Judge Aaron Persky's rationale for the lenient sentence was that a longer prison term might have a "severe impact" on Turner. The defendant and his father also blamed the victim for being intoxicated and claimed the rape was consensual in statements to the judge.
The assault and sentencing became the subject of national media attention after the survivor wrote a statement to her attacker, which she read to him in the courtroom and later gave to BuzzFeed to publish online.
On Thursday, Biden, who wrote the 1994 Violence Against Women Act and has worked in Congress to pass other anti-sexual assault bills, including funding to help clear the mass backlog of unexamined rape kits across the nation, addressed the survivor directly in his open letter, calling her a "warrior — with a solid steel spine."
In the letter, he criticized a "culture that promotes passivity" when it comes to rape, especially on college campuses where one in five women is sexually assaulted, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
"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 wrote. "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."
Biden also told the woman she had helped save lives by sharing her story and helping eviscerate the "indifference towards sexual violence that allows this problem to continue."
"Your words will help people you have never met and never will," he wrote. "You have given them the strength they need to fight. And so, I believe, you will save lives."
Read the full letter here.
Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields