Community & Government

Claiming Civil Rights for Survivors

Amanda Nguyen shares her experience with sexual assault and how she and other survivors were able to achieve justice by turning their trauma into civil rights legislation.

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Topics include: Content Warning: This chapter discusses sensitive material related to sexual violence. Claiming Civil Rights for Survivors The Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights Finding Political Support Achieving Personal Justice


- The way I process my trauma was by changing the law, changing the system that affects so many survivors, because I just wanted no one to have to experience what I had to go through. [MUSIC PLAYING] - Amanda, I've been so eager to talk to you again, because you have done something that is so important, which is to take something that happened to you and use it to help other people. So would you mind describing just enough so that people understand? - Absolutely. And I love the way that you asked that question, too. I started my journey in activism from a very personal place. During my last semester in college, I was raped. And I remember going to the hospital and getting a rape kit. And mine took six hours long. Most people don't know that it takes three to seven hours long. I remember they handed me a taxi voucher to go back to the dorm room where I was raped. And I was walking out of the hospital-- the doors opening, the sun rising. And I just thought to myself, well, where do I go from here? And I started to have basic questions, things like, well, where is the evidence from my body being taken? What's going to happen from here? And asking those questions has brought me to where I am today. - We hear the phrase rape kit, but I don't think we necessarily know what that means, which keeps us from knowing why it's important and also why it's difficult. Do you want to describe it? - Rape kits are both the forensic collection of the evidence and then also lifesaving medical attention. What is a huge human rights violation is the fact that survivors don't have equal access to these resources, to rape kits. For instance, in some states, rape kits are still destroyed before they are tested. Some kits are destroyed before the statute of limitations. In some states, survivors don't have access to be notified of their own rights. In some states, survivors are charged for their rape kits. It can cost up to $2,000. And if they can't afford it, they have creditors calling their home. - Rape kits are literally collecting the sperm that is there and analyzing it so you can identify perhaps the person-- right. - That's right. - So it would be like destroying fingerprints after a robbery, say. - Absolutely. - What was the next step for you? - Yeah. Well, when I tried to find answers, I was shocked. There's this idea that is sold to rape survivors that if you go to the hospital and you go to the police, that you'll find help. And what I experienced was something different. So in my case, I found out that, in Massachusetts, rape kits could be destroyed, untested, at six months, even if the statute of limitations-- it's 15 years. The double standard is that no other crime is treated that way. In murder cases, untested evidence is still kept. That's how cold cases are solved. And I also remember walking into my local area rape crisis center. There weren't enough seats for us...

About the Instructor

Women’s rights activists and political changemakers Gloria Steinem, adrienne maree brown, Amanda Nguyen, and Tina Tchen know there’s strength in numbers—especially in the fight for equality. Now, they’re coming together to dissect the issues women have faced in the U.S., talk about their advocacy efforts and personal challenges, and introduce ways you can play an active role in the feminist movement in your everyday life.

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Gloria Steinem, adrienne maree brown, Amanda Nguyen, and Tina Tchen

Four women’s rights activists discuss the feminist movement in the U.S., ways they’re creating change, and how you can join the fight for equality.

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