In January 2015, a young woman was brutally raped behind a dumpster by former Stanford swimmer Brock Allen Turner. The judge presiding over the case gave him an unbelievably lenient 6-month sentence which has understandably sparked public outrage. To add insult to injury, he could now even be released in 3 months.
After his sentence was handed down, two letters were made public — one was from the father of Brock Turner in which he stated the sentence seemed a “steep price to pay for only 20 minutes of action.”
The other letter was written by Brock Turner’s victim, which she read in court on the day of his sentencing. Her letter details her experience and the events afterwards and it’s truly heartbreaking. Showing unbelievable strength, she ends her letter with this:
And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.
Vice President Joe Biden, who played an integral part in passing the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, was so moved by the young woman’s bravery and strength that he felt compelled to write a letter of his own. And he did so this week:
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 toward 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.
Vice President Biden says what we are all feeling. This young woman’s courage has and will undoubtedly change the lives of people all over the world. She most definitely is a warrior – with a solid steel spine.
Featured image viMark Wilson/Getty Images