Online campaign leads to new bill of rights for sexual assault survivorsBy Rise, Inc
When Amanda Nguyen was raped, she reported the incident to the Massachusetts police, and underwent the hours-long examination to collect evidence for the ‛rape kit’. The Massachusetts law gives rape survivors like Nguyen 15 years to decide whether to pursue legal action, but the same state law also said that unless she filed an ‘extension request’ every six months, the state could destroy her rape kit, making legal action difficult.
Given little information on how to file an extension request, Nguyen scrambled around to find a solution, and has been making the same request every six months. “The system essentially makes me live my life by date of the rape,” Nguyen said. Further research showed that there isn’t a single state in the US where the law guarantees retention of a rape kit. This means millions of rape cases can go unexamined, in a country where there are an estimated 25 million rape survivors according to the Center for Disease Control.
Overcoming fear and shame, Nguyen gathered friends, acquaintances and advocates into an online network of volunteers who used an online petition and the #RiseUP hashtag on social media to drum up support for a bill to protect the rights of rape survivors.
Within two months, Massachusetts lawmakers introduced a bill containing new rights for people who had been sexually assaulted. Police must now either test a rape kit and/or notify the survivor before they can destroy it. Earlier this year, a federal Survivors’ Bill of Rights was approved unanimously in the House, which means that on a federal level at least, sexual assault survivors in the US will find it easier to report and manage their case.
More needs to be done on a state level, and Rise remains a solely volunteer-run organisation. To show your support, visit www.risenow.us
Image courtesy of Tom Waterhouse
Last updated: 12th of September, 2016