We Can Absolutely Create Change
In a time where political polarization is the expected norm, Amanda Nguyen has accomplished the almost unimaginable feat of passing a bill unanimously through Congress. Yet, the work is far from over for the Rise founder and CEO as the organization continues its efforts to ratify the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights in every state and across the globe.
Nguyen’s campaign to empower survivors was born of her own experience as a survivor of rape as an undergrad, and the astonishing legal discrepancies she discovered while trying to advocate for herself. In Massachusetts, where she was attending college, Nguyen had 15 years to press charges but the physical evidence could be destroyed after just 6 months unless she continuously filed to preserve it. “The judicial system in America failed me, but I still deeply believe in our legislative process,” Nguyen said. Catalyzed by her own experiences Nguyen established Rise as a national civil right nonprofit and set about to help survivors “pen their own civil rights into existence.”
In 2016 the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights passed unanimously through Congress and was signed into law by President Obama. “I actually have the C-SPAN vote count framed in our office, and I would never have thought that I would frame a C-SPAN thing, but it's incredibly moving,” Nguyen said. “It shows the possibility that we, as ordinary people, can absolutely will our nation to do what is our constitutional right, which is to pursue a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The bill entitles survivors to free medical exams, mandates that forensic evidence be kept for at least the statute of limitations on rape, and provides victims, who can request notification before a kit is destroyed, with the option to extend that timeline.
The federal legislation was just the beginning for Nguyen and her organization. “When President Obama signed it, we heard from over a million people who reached out to us through various social media channels, through change.org, through snail mail, to let us know in all 50 states, but also in other countries, how important survivor rights needed to be taken by their government.” Since then Rise has continued to lobby for the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights at the state level, “So, any survivors, regardless of where they are geographically, whether or not they're on campus or not, are still covered by these civil rights.”
Rise’s hard work has been paying off, most recently passing the bill in New York state this past December. “Activism fatigue is certainly a thing that exists, wherein there are so many issues that everybody wants to work on, and we're fighting all things at all times,” Nguyen said her organization’s persistent efforts. Such whole-hearted dedication will be invaluable to Rise as they pursue the Survivor’s Bill of Rights in the United Nations General Assembly.
It is our great pleasure to welcome Amanda Nguyen as a keynote speaker for #NASPA19.