FIRST THOUGHT: A National Epidemic
Now that we’re in the #MeToo era, we’re seeing plenty of headlines and dialogue about the word and act of “consent.” But how do you actually ask for it? Do I draft up a contract real quick, or read aloud a message like, “You have the right to consent; if you wave that right…”?
It’s actually easy and you’ve probably seen it right before your eyes. Start off a sentence with “Are you comfortable with…” or “Do you want me to…” A seriously central part of consent doesn’t even happen at the beginning; it can happen anywhere after. Be sure to check in with your partner and, for goodness sake, read your partner’s body language, because that just makes you a better person. Maybe he or she would rather get Ben & Jerry’s delivered and binge watch Scrubs, instead.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 98 Seconds
In early March 2019, Senator Martha McSally came forward and shared that an Air Force officer above her in rank raped her, leaving her ashamed and confused. As a pioneering pilot in the military, her story has inspired readers to share their own history with sexual assault.
We shouldn’t be surprised when a woman comes forward and discloses that she has been sexually assaulted. Why not? Well, because every 98 seconds, a person in America is sexually assaulted.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Amanda Nguyen, Survivor, Activist & Founder of Rise
Sharing your story of sexual assault isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. You don’t owe anyone anything, girl. Amanda Nguyen is one woman who is sharing her story and is making actual change happen in the United States.
In her final semester of college, while dreaming of becoming an astronaut, Amanda was raped. She recalls the loneliness she felt as she left the hospital after receiving a rape kit. Amanda researched her rights and discovered that it would take a lot of work and a lot of time, maybe even years, to pursue justice.
Amanda went on to secure an internship at NASA and felt torn about which direction to take. When she shared this internal conflict with a male astronaut, he inspired Amanda to fight for her civil rights, explaining that space isn’t going anywhere. So, Amanda pivoted and accepted the position of White House Liaison in 2014.
As part of her own personal journey to get justice, Amanda founded Rise to create legislation to protect survivors. It’s a national civil rights nonprofit that’s generating a global movement to fight for survivors’ rights, from Lebanon to Canada.
The first bill she drafted, called the Survivor Bill of Rights, received bipartisan support and was passed unanimously. In Massachusetts (the state in which the crime was committed against Amanda), evidence from a rape kit can be destroyed after six months. With the Survivor Bill of Rights, though, rape kits are preserved until the statute of limitations.
As Amanda expands her advocacy to beyond the United States, she gives hope to survivors everywhere. First, Amanda proves that you can’t rely on anyone else to advocate on your behalf. Second, she demonstrates that our legal and political systems are more accessible than we think. It took Amanda hours and hours of sitting in front of elected officials, sharing the details of her rape, to pass that first bill. But she did it. Third, we can’t achieve equality or justice without fighting for everyone else along the way.
QUITE THE QUOTE
In the words of Amanda Nguyen:
"I'm proof that you can change your country."