For years, actress Evan Rachel Wood has been an outspoken advocate for sexual abuse survivors. On Feb. 27, she took that fight to Congress.
It was a bit of a “Ms. Timber Goes to Washington” type of moment. Joined by Rebecca O’Connor of the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network( RAINN) and Amanda Nguyen and Lauren Libby of the nonprofit Rise, the “Westworld” actress testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Together, the women brought their stories of ache and perseverance, advocating on behalf of survivors around the country.
“I guessed I was the only human who experienced this, and I carried so much guilt and embarrassment about my response to the abuse, ” said Wood before go into details about her history as a sexual assault survivor. “I accepted my powerlessness, and I felt I deserved it somehow.”
That feeling of powerlessness, of feeling that the system is rigged against survivors, is a big part of their own problems. In a lot of ways, the system is rigged against survivors — which is why the Survivors’ Bill of Rights is so important.
The Survivors’ Bill of Right was signed into law by President Barack Obama in October 2016 after passing through Congress with unanimous support.
The law establishes that sexual assault survivors have the right to a forensic medical exam without cost to them, the right for evidence collect kits( aka “rape kits”) to be preserved for 20 years( unless a state-level statute of limitations is shorter, in which case, proof will be preserved for that amount of day ), and the right to be notified before proof is disposed of. Additionally, the law shall constitute an authorization for survivors have access to counselors and the ability to track when and where their rape kit is being tested.
Groups like End the Backlog and RAINN have pushed to address the issue of untested rape kits, and the Survivors’ Bill of Right provides a bit more accountability on that front — though it stops short of providing the funding necessary to induce testing automatic. As Wood noted in her evidence, it’s “a safety net that may save someone’s life some day, ” but not a be-all and end-all for protecting survivors.
At least nine states have adopted their own version of the Survivors’ Bill of Rights. This testimony exhorted the others to follow suit.
There’s only so much the federal government can do to protect survivors. The passageway of the Survivors’ Bill of Right set a strong example for state and local officials to look toward when it comes to how they handle assault and conversations with survivors. As Nguyen notes in her evidence, “most rape cases are adjudicated in country tribunals, ” where federal protections don’t necessarily apply.
To find out where your state stands on the Survivors’ Bill of Rights and learn how you can get involved in the fight for justice, visit the Rise website.
If you’re very interested in a slightly more lighthearted take over this serious topic, check out this PSA Wood did for Funny or Die. It proves just how prevalent the issue of sexual assault and harassment is.
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