Vice president tells Stanford sexual assault victim: ‘I believe you. It is not your fault.’

Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Morehouse College last year during a three-college tour to mobilize students to take action to prevent sexual assault on campuses. (Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com)

The Stanford rape case is reverberating around the country including the White House where Vice President Joe Biden wrote a letter of support to the victim after her powerful court statement went viral.

Biden shared his letter with Buzzfeed News.

While Biden doesn’t refer to former Stanford swimmer Brock Allen Turner by name, he cites the controversial letter submitted to the court by the man’s father.

Seeking leniency for his son, Dan Turner wrote, “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life.”

In his letter to the victim, Biden said, “You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed ’20 minutes of action.’ His son will be.”

Convicted on felony assault and attempted rape charges, the 20-year-old Turner received six months in jail, three years of probation and must register as a sex offender.

Biden wrote:

An Open Letter to a Courageous Young Woman

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I do not know your name—but thanks to you, I know that heroes ride bicycles.

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.

They did not say “It’s none of my business.”

They did not worry about the social or safety implications of intervening, or about what their peers might think.

Those two men epitomize what it means to be a responsible bystander.

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.

We all have a responsibility to stop the scourge of violence against women once and for all.

I do not know your name – but I see your unconquerable spirit.

I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman—full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest.

I see you.

You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed “20 minutes of action.”

His son will be.

I join your global chorus of supporters, because we can never say enough to survivors: I believe you. It is not your fault.

What you endured is never, never, never, NEVER a woman’s fault.

And while the justice system has spoken in your particular case, the nation is not satisfied.

And that is why we will continue to speak out.

We will speak to change the culture on our college campuses—a culture that continues to ask the wrong questions: What were you wearing?

Why were you there? What did you say? How much did you drink?

Instead of asking: Why did he think he had license to rape?

We will speak out against those who seek to engage in plausible deniability. Those who know that this is happening, but don’t want to get involved. Who believe that this ugly crime is “complicated.”

We will speak of you—you who remain anonymous not only to protect your identity, but because you so eloquently represent “every woman.”

We will make lighthouses of ourselves, as you did—and shine.

Your story has already changed lives.

You have helped change the culture.

You have shaken untold thousands out of the torpor and indifference towards sexual violence that allows this problem to continue.

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.

And 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.

Reader Comments 0

42 comments
Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

A couple of points:

1.  No one is responsible for the criminal actions except the person committing the crime.

2.  No means NO and an unconscious person cannot give consent.


That said....

When you engage in risky behavior or are negligent, you invite bad things to happen.  If I leave my garage door open all night, I am asking for a criminal to come in and take my stuff.  If I walk crime ridden streets alone at 2am, I am inviting a criminal to mug and rob me.

Men taking advantage of drunk women is a game that has been played for generations.  Yet, this young woman went to a party and drank herself to stupidity.  She spun the roulette wheel and lost.  In her own words, she remembers going to the party with her sister and the next thing, she is waking up in a hospital.

We don't know all the facts of this case.  The judge does.  He heard all the testimony and all the evidence.  He decided to be lenient with his sentencing of the assailant.  Perhaps this young woman's actions during her drinking binge gave him pause.  Who knows.

Biden could have focused on the dangers of alcohol abuse and young people drinking to excess, but he focused on the politically expedient.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

We don't know the facts of the case is a cop out. What we know is that the guy was convicted and the judge chose to go light

gapeach101
gapeach101

@class80olddog

What is your question?  Yes, it's problematic if both people are drinking.  Those incidents will need to be decided in a court of law.  What does that have to do with this?

class80olddog
class80olddog

I think for a lot of women, the only punishment they would accept is castration, a 20-year sentence in a prison where he becomes the "girlfriend" of a huge guy named "Bubba", then branding on the forehead with a big "R" for rapist.  Or would you be satisfied if he just commits suicide?

class80olddog
class80olddog

@gapeach101 @class80olddog I was speaking tongue in cheek.  But since some people have gone so far as to threaten the CHILDREN of the JUDGE who only gave him six months...  sort of like the ones who said the mother and child should have been shot instead of the gorilla.

class80olddog
class80olddog

So in today's world, if a man has sex with a woman who is "intoxicated", it is rape, because she cannot give true consent (even if she says yes, yes, yes).  What is the definition of "intoxicated"?  BAC of 0.08?  One beer?  Where is the line?  Do guys at college need to carry around a breathalyzer?  How many "rapes" on college campuses occur where the woman has not had ANYTHING to drink? 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@taylor48 @class80olddog Yes, they are the heroes of this story.  Glad they intervened rather than just kept pedaling, like some people would do. He was justly convicted of performing acts on an inebriated and unconscious woman.  For that he will be punished for the rest of his life.  He will not be able to take any kids he has to school, he will not be able to live anywhere near a school.  His neighbors will be able to look his name up in a register of sex offenders.  And, in my opinion, he should do jail time to discourage others.  But NO ONE knows at what point the woman became unconscious.  Did he hit her over the head with his caveman club in the frat house, and then carry her on his shoulder behind the dumpster?  Or did she willingly go behind the dumpster with him?  We will never know.  Neither one professes to remember.

taylor48
taylor48

@class80olddog She wasn't just drunk, she was UNCONSCIOUS.  Whether that happened because of alcohol or because he knocked her head against the ground is irrelevant.  Once you are unconscious, you can't consent to anything.  This isn't a case of "he said, she said."  There were two witnesses who testified in court that she was unconscious.  They are the heroes in this story.  They could have kept on riding by, but they chose to help.  Otherwise, this rapist would have never been caught and would probably have raped again.

Astropig
Astropig

If universities would stop treating rape as a "violation of campus policy" and take it as the serious,violent assault that it is,we would at least see some offenders where they should be-behind bars for a long,long time. Alcohol and "first time away from home" boys and girls don't mix very well-In cars, in frat houses and in casual relationships. But schools wink at their own policies on underage consumption and it leads to tragedies (approximately 1400 students a year die of alcohol poisoning,according to figures I've seen).Add to that the all out push to make weed legal and available and...Well, you get the idea.We can't expect kids to behave like responsible adults when we don't sanction dangerous personal behavior.


That said, I'm still waiting for an apology for the Rolling Stone rape hoax that was breathlessly passed off as a factual story when we now know that it wasn't. We can't have real justice in any of these cases if we smear the innocent and turn a blind eye toward the guilty.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Astropig Yes, they turn a blind eye to the drinking and party culture and then condemn the results when it goes badly.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I hope the rapist's father is treated by his friends and associates as the enabling pariah that he is.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @teacheralso You mean his mother?  How would you feel if your son was accused of this? Would you support him or just tell him he needs to rot in jail?

teacheralso
teacheralso

@Wascatlady Unfortunately, his friends and associates are probably of the same ilk as himself.  But I agree.  He is an "enabling pariah."

class80olddog
class80olddog

@gapeach101 @class80olddog @Wascatlady @teacheralso I was just asking the question.  If your son had done this, would you disown him?  Refuse to help pay defense costs?  Never visit him in jail?  Refuse to talk to him for the rest of your life? Refuse to come to the court hearings? 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@gapeach101 @class80olddog @Wascatlady @teacheralso I can speak from experience.  My son was in trouble when he was about 21.  It wasn't for assault, or harming anyone, but he was harming himself, with the potential of harming others.  It could have been claimed that his PTSD as a result of his TBI was a reason for his troubles, but in reality no matter what his reasons, he, like us all, has to live within the bounds of law and ethics.


What did I do? He was in the county jail for over a month.  He was not bailed out.  I hired his attorney, and I advocated to get him into treatment.  If he left treatment (which was very stringent) he would be put in jail. That was certainly as it should be.  He was in treatment for 13 months in a very restricted environment--many things we would take for granted even in treatment were not allowed.  Eventually he was "off campus" working for several hours a day.  All his pay went to the facility, and after he "graduated" he repaid all his room, board, and treatment expenses.  It took several months. The facility wrote him that they had never had anyone do that after they left!  He also repaid the cost of his attorney and was able to get his driver's license reinstated.  But it was all on him.




trifecta_
trifecta_

Perhaps any young woman who drinks herself into a completely insensible drunken stupor deserves some jail time, too. 

How many readers have abused alcohol to the point of fainting?

taylor48
taylor48

@trifecta_ I didn't know getting falling down drunk was a felony.  I'm pretty sure that stripping an unconscious woman and dragging her behind a dumpster so you can violate her is.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@taylor48 @trifecta_ He was convicted of three felonies.  No one knows if she was conscious when she was "stripped" and there is no evidence that he "dragged her" behind the dumpsters. 

taylor48
taylor48

@class80olddog @taylor48 @trifecta_ But, again, when did "drinking herself into a completely insensible drunken stupor "  become a felony?  Because the original post was regarding jail time for the girl.  She didn't commit a felony, Brock Turner did.  He should be in prison.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@taylor48 @class80olddog @trifecta_ I am not defending him - he committed felonies and was convicted in a court of law.  As you point out, it is not against the law to drink yourself into unconsciousness.  But what if he had asked her back to his apartment and she said yes, and they went there and had sex, but then when she woke up she claimed he raped her? (she does have a boyfriend, after all).  He was drunk, too, so he could claim that she raped him.  These are the truly hard cases.  His was open and shut. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

When my daughters went off to college, I was careful to teach them the meaning of the ditty "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker."  I also taught my sons that sex can have consequences, such as 18 years of child support. 

trifecta_
trifecta_

@class80olddog 

Don't you wish Joe Biden's father had taught him not to shamelessly exploit every issue for political gain?

class80olddog
class80olddog

Should the victim be able to attend a frat party, get passing-out drunk and not have to worry about having sex?  YES!  And I should be able to park at a 7-11 in Southeast Atlanta, leave the car unlocked with the engine running, leave my cell phone and a roll of hundred dollar bills on the seat and expect it all to be there when I come back.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Do I think this swimmer should have a longer sentence?  Yes - give him six years for stupidity and to send a message to all would-be stupid people out there.  But I have asked a question on here before that has never been answered and now I really want an answer.  If two 21-year old college students get rip-roaring drunk and have consensual sex, are they BOTH considered rapists and are raping each other?  Or can a woman NEVER be a rapist?  How often has a woman been prosecuted for having sex with an inebriated male?

taylor48
taylor48

@class80olddog But, if one person is unconscious, doesn't that imply that they aren't consenting to anything?  This girl wasn't just drunk, she was unconscious.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@taylor48 @class80olddog Yes, unconscious is definitely unable to consent.  But what if you consent and then fall unconscious during the act?  Obviously a chivalrous gentleman would stop, but...

class80olddog
class80olddog

I guess no one wants to answer these questions because of what the answers would tell us about the current state of our "justice".

LoMoney
LoMoney

joe's furious with this judge only giving 6 months! he demand more jail time! if not, barack may order the judge removed.

Christie_S
Christie_S

Good letter. I agree with Joe Biden on this.