Senate Democrats introduced a new bill on Tuesday that would provide more rights to victims of sexual assault, and the activist behind the bill is a figure whom you might soon be hearing a lot more about. Twenty-four-year-old Amanda Nguyen is a State Department liaison to the White House who is training to become — wait for it — an astronaut. But Nguyen is also an activist for survivors of sexual violence, and has experienced her own struggles within a legal system that often tells women that our bodies don't belong to us.
Nguyen, who is also the founder of the sexual assault survivors coalition Rise, told The Guardian that she was sexually assaulted two years ago, and that she submitted a rape kit as evidence to the State of Massachusetts (where the alleged assault happened). She claims that she was later offered a pamphlet which told her that the rape kit would be destroyed unless she filed an "extension request," but provided no information on how to do so. This is not an exception to the rule. Women who come forward about sexual assault have to jump through hoops to have their cases heard and taken seriously.
House Resolution 230, which was introduced in April 2015, would essentially be a Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill Of Rights at the federal level, ensuring that victims of sexual assault could more easily get the legal help they deserve. Survivors would receive access to counseling services and clear information regarding legal processes, making the process of filing a sexual assault charge more comprehensive. The bill is expected to gain bipartisan support, as different parties have been involved in its crafting.
We’ve worked extensively with people from all sides of the aisle to make sure that this bill addresses their critical voices. This includes law enforcement, defense groups, state and federal elected officials from both parties, including DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and former RNC Co-Chair Ann Wagner, who are the lead sponsors of a U.S. House Resolution expressing support for our state bills.
Nguyen told The Guardian how difficulties in her own case prompted her to do research into other state's sexual assault policies, and she found that there are no guaranteed standard processes or rights for victims. USA Today and journalists representing over 75 newspapers and TV stations found that at least 70,000 rape kits had gone untested across more than 1,000 police departments.
What's the incentive to come forward about an assault when it's not taken seriously? The proposed Senate bill would put the rights and legal protections of victims at the center. And the role of law enforcement in this issue is also extremely important; there should be more available resources that provide training to law enforcement officials who handle sexual assault cases. Every year in the U.S., about 68 percent of sexual assaults go unreported to police. According to RAINN, even when a rape is reported, only seven out of 100 will lead to an arrest, and only two out of 100 of those rapists will spend a day in prison.
As if that's not enough reason for reform, there are 293,066 victims of sexual violence in the U.S. every year — that's one assault every 107 seconds. According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, nearly 20 percent of women reported being a victim of sexual assault during their freshman year of undergraduate studies. The respondents said that the assault happened either by force or while using substances.
Nguyen also told the Guardian, “The system essentially makes me live my life by date of rape,” and that such a tiring process shouldn't deter more people from coming forward about their cases. Nguyen's proposed bill could bring much-needed changes to sexual assault reporting processes across the country, ensuring that individuals feel safe and heard when they come forward about their experiences. This is especially important in making sure that survivors of sexual assault receive the justice and peace they deserve.