I am Generation Equality because
Amanda was in her last semester at Harvard University, training to become an astronaut, when she was raped.
“I became an activist because I needed civil rights and no-one was going to write them for me,” says Amanda.
“After my rape, I experienced a broken criminal justice system. I remember walking out of the hospital and thinking, where do I go from here? I remember walking into my local crisis centre and the waiting room was filled. I remember trying to figure out what my rights were, and what the next steps were. It was incredibly difficult. I found a system designed to obfuscate the paths to justice.”
“If I was struggling through the system, what about those who didn’t have my resources?”, she asks.
“No-one should have to choose between justice or their career.”
Becoming an agent of change
The police and victim rights attorneys told Amanda rape cases are very arduous, could take multiple years and she would have to make a decision between justice or her career.
“There’s a very real economic cost to violence against women. There are incredible sacrifices that survivors have to make if they want to pursue justice. I don’t think that is right,” says Amanda.
“I also didn’t think it was right for collected evidence to be routinely destroyed before testing. It didn’t help anyone. The law has a gender, and that gender is not female.”
“I had a choice. I could accept the injustice or re-write the law, so I re-wrote it. I sent out a blast e-mail to everyone I knew, including my professors, peers and former bosses, and I asked them to walk with me in penning my own justice into existence, in the form of a sexual assault survivor bill of rights.”
And that’s how she started her organization, Rise, a social change incubator for citizen lawmaking. Rise has since its founding in November 2014 helped pass 33 laws across the United States, covering over 84 million rape survivors.
“I think hope is a renewable resource,” says Amanda. “When one person in one corner of the world is able to fight for their rights, prompt the passing of a law and get it codified, it inspires other people to do the same. We have the agency to create the world that we want. No one is powerless when we come together and no one is invisible when we demand to be seen. So, demand to be seen.”
Photo credits (header image):
Amanda Nguyen. Photo: Kate Warren
Three actions you can take to be part of Generation Equality:
Believe survivors who came forward to share their experiences
Use your voice, it’s your most powerful tool
Join the conversation using #GenerationEquality