On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden sent a powerful open letter to the woman who was raped by Brock Turner. "You are a warrior," he wrote, "with a solid steel spine."
Biden has been outspoken about his fight to end violence against women. He introduced the Violence Against Women Act in Congress in 1990 (it passed in 1994) and has more recently partnered with President Obama to launch the "It's On Us," campaign, which is aimed at reducing sexual assault against women on college campuses.
His letter, which you can read in full here, offers the type of empathy, acknowledgement and commitment to justice that Turner's own statement to the court notably lacked. While Turner and his supporters spoke of impaired judgement and peer pressure, Biden spoke incisively about the issue at hand: Rape. "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," Biden wrote.
In his letter, the vice president praised the Stanford graduate students who caught Turner in the act and stopped him from doing further harm, saying that "those two men epitomize what it means to be a responsible bystander." All the people who failed to step in for the victim that night, he said, are part of the problem.
But mostly, he recognized the survivor for her courage, and her selflessness in sharing her experience with the world. "I do not know your name," he wrote, "but I see your unconquerable spirit." He continued:
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… 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.
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.
Biden also took Turner's father—who wrote in a letter that his son's "life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve," and lamented the "steep price" he was paying for "20 minutes of action"—to task. "You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed '20 minutes of action,' the vice president told the survivor. "His son will be."
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.