TIME: Congress Members Read the Anonymous Stanford Sexual-Assault Letter, and It Was Powerful

June 15, 2016
In The News

In their suits and pearls, members of Congress stood on the House floor and staged a public reading for a full hour Wednesday night. Their material was the viral letter penned by Anonymous, the woman who was sexually assaulted on the Stanford University campus last year. She had read the same letter to her attacker, Brock Turner, in court — describing what that night, the ensuing legal battle, and the fact that he was sentenced to only six months in prison, had done to her.

The reading began just before 8 p.m. Wednesday local time. The 19 members who participated in the reading did not introduce themselves as they cycled up to the microphone, for fear it would distract from the content of the letter. The result was that they seemed rather anonymous too, echoing a message that has taken on significance for women and men far beyond its author.

Many readers were women from the California delegation, but the group was female and male, Republican and Democrat. As they worked through the 7,200 words, the hallowed stage and the elegant attire starkly underscored the pained, graphic words that were being read.

Congress members read descriptions of the victim being violated half-naked behind a dumpster, waking up confused on a hospital gurney, finding pine needles in her vagina, being told that she liked being penetrated by a foreign object, not being able to sleep in the dark anymore, and being grilled by attorneys who wanted her to do nothing more than slip up. Many read loudly, trying to channel the disbelief and anger of the author. Others sat behind, listening, with hands covering their mouths.

The reading was organized by California Representative Jackie Speier, who represents the area around Palo Alto, where Stanford is located. She began reading the 12-page letter, and introduced it:

“We are doing something tonight that’s never been done before on the House floor, we will read the entire gut-wrenching statement of a sexual-assault survivor who was attacked on the Stanford campus last year,” she said. “Emily Doe is a survivor in every sense of the word and her words deserved to be amplified.” She said the members were not moved by Brock Turner’s “excuse of alcohol,” nor his fathers reasoning that his son’s life shouldn’t be derailed “for 20 minutes of action.”

The whole letter can be read here, on the Buzzfeed site where it was first publicly posted.

Watch the full video here: https://cs.pn/1YsWIEo


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