26-Year-Old Sexual Assault Bill of Rights Creator Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize
Amanda Nguyen, a sexual assault survivor and just 26-years-old has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The nomination is in recognition of her efforts at drafting and campaigning for the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights. While Nguyen just recently gave her testimony with actor Terry Crews before Congress, she was nominated by Mimi Walters and Zoe Lofgren, two California representatives, last May but her nomination was made public in late June.
Nguyen is the founder of RISE, a non-profit national civil rights organization set up to represent the rights of survivors of sexual assault across the country. According to her 2016 sponsored bill, Nguyen wants more uniform and clear rights for sexual assault survivors across the country. The bill, which she drafted with friends, takes care of several inconsistencies in prosecuting sexual assault and guaranteeing the rights of survivors.
Nguyen was sexually assaulted by a fellow student while she studied at Harvard in Massachusetts. Following the incident, she learned that while the statue of limitations for trying a rape case in Massachusetts is 15 years, state law dictated that a rape kit can be destroyed after six months unless the survivor files for an extension. She told Women’s Health Magazine that she struggled to keep her rape kit from destruction every six months until her sponsored Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights was passed.
“I’m a rape survivor—I was raped in Massachusetts—and in that state, rape kits can be destroyed at six months, even if the statute of limitations is 15 years. This is no longer the case because of this law. Up until this bill was passed, every six months, I had to try to save my rape kit from destruction.
“This is one of the many different ways the criminal justice system lets down rape survivors. In some states, survivors are denied access to their own medical information. In some states, survivors aren’t allowed to access their own police reports. And it’s quite difficult to find out what your rights are because it differs from state to state. States like California and Texas process rape kits in a timely matter or don’t destroy them. So two survivors in two different states shouldn’t have two completely different sets of rights,” Nguyen told Women’s Health.
Former President Barack Obama signed Nguyen’s bill into law in October 2016 after it sailed through Congress without opposition. According to the provisions of the bill, victims of federal sexual assaults must be duly informed 60 days before a rape kit is destroyed. Sexual assault victims will also be informed of legal rights and options at the state level while having unhindered access to their medical information.
New York, Maryland, Utah and 11 other states have implemented the bill as of now, with both Crews and Nguyen imploring other states during their hearing to follow suit.
Nguyen explained to Women’s Health how she sought out help from her friends to draft the bill.
“I sent a mass email to everyone I knew to see who could help me write a bill of rights for survivors in Massachusetts. We put our heads together and drafted it within a month, and we worked many months after that to hammer out the details. While working on it, I realized just how much demand there was for this bill, though. In addition to a version being passed in Massachusetts, the president signed the bill into law at the federal level. It took seven months from introduction to passage—and it passed unanimously in Congress.”
Nguyen went on to explain that while the bill became a federal law, they are still working to pass the bill in state legislatures across the country because most rape cases are tried in state courts.
“We’re trying to push state bills out there, and they’d be similar to the federal bill but also include rights that pertain uniquely to every state.”
Fortunately, Nguyen explained the response to her bill has been very positive. From emails and tweets from supporters of her efforts to the active support of activist groups and legislators, people are telling Nguyen they want her bill.
“The good news is that we have seen an incredible amount of momentum—legislators and activists in local communities are saying, ‘We want this. We want to adopt this model that we’ve been hearing about.'”
And if a Nobel Peace Prize weren’t enough, Nguyen is also in training to be an astronaut. Watch her TED Talk below.
*Corrections: In a previous version of this story Ms. Nguyen’s age was represented as 27, it is in fact 26. Ms. Nguyen was also nominated in May, not after her testimony before Congress as the previous version suggested.