In 2013, when Amanda Nguyen was a student at Harvard, she was sexually assaulted. She then found herself between a rock and an impossibly hard place: According to Massachusetts law, she could either file rape charges immediately and endure a potentially long, time-consuming, and expensive trial, or she’d have to go through an elaborate (and costly) process every six months just to keep her rape kit in the state’s criminal justice system. She wasn’t ready to go to court, but she also didn’t want the evidence of her rape to be destroyed. Instead, she decided to change the law itself. In 2014, Amanda founded Rise, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of sexual assault and rape survivors. With the help of her fellow organizers, she wrote the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, a federal bill that was passed unanimously by both chambers of Congress and signed into law in October 2016. Among other things, the new law protects the right to have the evidence of a rape kit preserved without charge for the duration of the statute of limitations. Amanda is currently working to expand and protect the rights of sexual assault survivors worldwide.
I had been struggling to understand a labyrinth of laws, and felt as though the Massachusetts criminal justice system had designed a Kafka-esque game just for me. But when I walked into my local rape crisis center and watched the waiting room fill up, I realized that this experience wasn’t mine alone.