Civil Rights for Rape Survivors

Almost three years ago, I was raped. That night, I had a rape kit performed so that the evidence on my body could be saved and submitted to the state of Massachusetts. However, the evidence they took from me after 6 hours of analysis is not safe because Massachusetts can destroy my rape kit after 6 months, even though the statute of limitations for rape is 15 years. Every 6 months, I have to save my rape kit from the trash by filing an extension request to make sure that it is saved. I live my life according to the date of my rape to ensure that my access to justice is preserved - 6 months from my rape, 1 year from my rape, 18 months from my rape. These are the dates that must swirl through my head so that I can one day seek justice.

On top of being able to destroy my kit without my consent, Massachusetts didn’t even tell me how to file an extension request for my kit. I had to figure that out on my own. In the course of doing this research, I found that rape survivors in other states are treated differently. If I was raped in Texas, Illinois, Colorado, or California, then my kit would be preserved. On the other hand, some states hold the kits for even less time than Massachusetts - New Hampshire can destroy kits after only 60 days. Overall, no state has comprehensive civil rights for sexual assault survivors, and the rights given to survivors varies drastically from state to state. Justice should not depend on geography.

When I learned about this I was left with a choice, either I could accept this injustice or I could rewrite the law. I chose to rewrite the law. I founded Rise in November 2014 in order to get comprehensive civil rights for sexual assault survivors in all 50 states and at the federal level. To do this, we created the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, legislation that will provide basic, common sense rights to sexual assault survivors.

Since then, our all volunteer group has gotten our bill passed in the U.S. Senate, and multiple states have passed parts of our Bill of Rights. We are also planning on introducing the bill in another dozen states across the country in the next year.

However, there is so much more work still to be done - we need to get our federal bill passed in the U.S. House before the end of the congressional session on December 18th. We are raising money to turn Rise into an organization with the structure and resources to see this fight through to the finish - where every survivor across the country has access to their basic rights and the standard of justice which is the least that they deserve.

With this funding, Rise will be able to fund sending survivors to share their story with politicians - whether that means flying them to DC to lobby the Speaker to put our federal bill to a vote, or traveling to their state capitol to talk to their personal state legislator. Survivor advocates are the most powerful force behind Rise, and amplifying their voices is crucial to achieving our goals of justice for all survivors.

In addition, if we hit our fundraising goal, then Rise will be able to bring on our first staffer to fight for survivors bills of rights on the Federal and state level, as well as increase our advocacy and awareness efforts to make sure the entire country knows why survivors need these civil rights (You can watch our previous Funny or Die video ). Rise has been able to accomplish so much on a shoestring budget with volunteers working on evenings and weekends, but a full-time staff will add exponentially to our ability to make change and create a larger network of volunteers and grassroots advocates who can get our Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights passed in every single state in America.

I am attempting to pen my rights into existence along with the rights of the 25-30 million survivors across the United States. Please join our fight.

You can read more about our efforts in The Guardian, The Boston Globe, and The Christian Science Monitor.

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Amanda Nguyen 
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