OPINION: Joe Biden’s Letter To Stanford Survivor Signals Crossroads Of Sports, Culture
American culture and sports are now once again intertwined.
Not as a result of Muhammad Ali being laid to rest, or on account of Serena Williams finally getting closer to equal pay, but because our college campuses are plagued by an epidemic that transcends sports, education, entertainment and humanity.
Rape culture is real folks, I have seen it on display first-hand.
And now thanks to an incredibly smart, clever, talented and courageous young woman, you have all been exposed to it too.
The much-publicized rape case of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner has called all non-believers out on the carpet.
Attacks on Turner’s nameless accuser for the amount of alcohol she consumed, claiming “she brought it on herself,” or questions asked of her like, “Why would you lead him on? What were you wearing? What did you say to give him the impression that he had your consent?”
They are all baseless and irrelevant.
Sports have shined a spotlight on this issue recently, but not in the way we all would have hoped.
Darren Sharper‘s rape case revealed for too many how far a champion could fall, as opposed to how deplorable his actions were.
Baylor’s sexual assault scandal is only now coming to light, three years after the first incident took place, but the narrative in the sports world is more focused on how many recruits will decommit or what it will do to the Bears chances of making the College Football Playoff, instead of hammering the institution that kept it all behind closed doors, on the hush, before an outside entity uncovered all the gory details of its depravity.
As Vice President Joe Biden highlighted in his open letter to the survivor, published by BuzzFeed, these are all the wrong questions and each one reflects the rape culture that festers in our society, whether the naysayers are willing to acknowledge its existence or not.
Biden’s letter was loquacious, but stern, conjuring up every emotion on the spectrum from saddness, to anger, to inspiration, pointing out all the ails surrounding the act of rape, from suggesting the survivor’s letter be “required reading,” to explicitly stating that she “changed the world.”
“I do not know your name,” Biden wrote, “but I know a lot of people failed you that January night and in the months that followed. … You were failed by a culture on our college campuses where one in five women is sexually assaulted.”
READ BIDEN’S FULL LETTER HERE
If you are hearing that number for the first time it can be jarring.
Brace yourself, it is likely worse than that.
In an interview I recently conducted with two members of Rutgers University’s Office of Violence Prevention and Victim’s Assistance, it was divulged to me that the numbers are likely much higher. The statistics are merely a reflection of the reported incidents and survey responses where students were willing to be honest about their experiences with sexual violence, for many others, the struggle to cope is all too real.
“If (the numbers of reported incidents or rape) kept going up for 10 years that would probably be a good thing as long as we are also seeing the resources to help survivors, the climate starts to change, so that we don’t see as much violence happening in the first place,” said Brady Root, prevention education coordinator for Rutgers’ VPVA.
“I mean that’s the real goal, to stop the violence before it occurs, not just to respond to it afterwards,” Root said.
If the Stanford survivor’s letter becomes required reading at every high school and institution for higher education in this country I guarantee it will have an effect on rape culture.
At Rutgers the policy is not “no means no,” the university instituted a “yes policy” in recent years, requiring a clear “yes” be spoken as means of consenting to sexual activity.
Biden indicated he was disappointed in the statistics, pointing out that the numbers have not gone down in two decades, calling the response “a failure.”
“You were failed by anyone who dared to question this one clear and simple truth: Sex without consent is rape,” Biden wrote. “Period. It is a crime.”
The vice president also called out onlookers for their inaction under these circumstances, shaming those too confused or torn to step in.
“I don’t know your name, ” Biden continued, “but thanks to you, I know heroes ride bicycles. … 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.”
Just like Biden said it is on ALL of us.
It doesn’t matter what she was wearing, or how intoxicated she may have been. It doesn’t matter that Turner had a clean record prior to this, or that the survivor may have been interested in him romantically.
This is a cut and dry issue, there is NO gray area. He was having sex with an unconscious woman, on the ground behind a dumpster.
The survivor put it best when recounting her understanding of the events as told to her by police.
“Note; if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down help her up. If she is wearing a cardigan over her dress don’t take it off so that you can touch her breasts. Maybe she is cold, maybe that’s why she wore the cardigan.”
Read the signs people, they aren’t as enigmatic as you think.