Biden's heart goes out to rape victim

US vice-president Joe Biden
US vice-president Joe BidenPHOTO: REUTERS

Vice-President joins celebrities in denouncing rapist's 6-month term

NEW YORK • Politicians and celebrities in the US, including Vice-President Joe Biden, have joined the outpouring of support for the victim in the Stanford University sexual assault case, in which the attacker received a six-month jail sentence widely criticised as too lenient.

The online community has reacted with anger to the sentence that Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky handed down last week on former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, 20, in the sexual assault of an unconscious woman in January last year.

Prosecutors had sought a six- year prison term for Turner, reported Reuters.

BuzzFeed on Thursday published an open letter by Mr Biden addressing the victim.

"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," the Vice-President wrote.

SUPPORT FOR VICTIM

You will never be defined by what the defendant's father callously termed "20 minutes of action". His son will be.

US VICE-PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, taking aim at both rapist Brock Turner and his father for their lack of accountability.

Mr Biden, who in 1994 authored the original Violence Against Women Act in Congress, took aim in his letter at both Turner and his father for their lack of accountability, reported The Guardian.

Turner's father had written a letter to the judge defending his son. "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 his life," Mr Dan Turner wrote.

Mr Biden, in his letter to the victim, wrote: "You will never be defined by what the defendant's father callously termed '20 minutes of action'. His son will be."

Republican Representative Ted Poe from Texas called for Judge Persky to be removed from office and demanded that the sentence be overturned in favour of harsher punishment, reported Reuters.

"The punishment for rape should be longer than a semester of college," Mr Poe, a former judge, said in the House of Representatives.

The uproar over the sentence, fuelled partly by the victim's statement detailing the assault in graphic terms, is part of the growing outrage about rape on college campuses across the United States.

Officials have said Judge Persky has received death threats. He is prohibited from commenting on the case because Turner is appealing against his conviction.

On Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio posted a live video to his Facebook page of several people, including his wife Chirlane McCray, reading the 12-page letter the victim had read in court addressing her attacker.

Actress Lena Dunham offered support for the victim on her Twitter page, posting a video about sexual assault. Brie Larson, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a character who is kidnapped and raped in the movie Room, tweeted that Judge Persky was "on the wrong side of history".

The case also struck a nerve internationally. Social media users in China have begun protesting against Turner's sentence on the networking site Weibo, BuzzFeed reported on Thursday.

The Weibo posts frequently include images of women holding signs with messages of indignation. "It is rape when she's unconscious," one sign reads. "It is still rape when he is a good swimmer."

Turner is due to be released on Sept 2 from the Santa Clara County jail, the sheriff's office said. He was booked on June 2.

Inmates sentenced to county jail in California generally serve 50 per cent of their sentences, said San Jose, California, criminal attorney Edward Kraus.

A copy of Turner's statement shows the former athlete placed the blame on a "party culture" across college campuses and alcohol, reported The Guardian.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2016, with the headline 'Biden's heart goes out to rape victim'. Print Edition | Subscribe