Get to Know Amanda Nguyen, Civil Rights Activist and Nobel Peace Prize Nominee | The 2019 MAKERS Conference
Every 6 months, Amanda Nguyen had to fight to make sure her rape kit wasn’t destroyed. She wrote the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights so that no other person would have to live through the same trauma. Now, as the founder of Rise and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, she’s sparking a global movement that’s recognizing the epidemic of sexual violence and empowering women and men to step up.
AMANDA NGUYEN: People ask me, well, why is the system so broken? And the honest answer to that is that the law has a gender. And that gender isn't female. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I was a kid, I loved space. I wanted to be an astronaut. People would often joke that I'd run into things because I was too busy looking up at the sky. [LAUGHS] My parents were refugees from Vietnam. And so I grew up understanding quite viscerally the cost of freedom and what that means, and to never take that for granted. I have never fully understood the definition of lonely as much as I did when I walked out of that hospital after having my rape kit done. And when I started researching my rights, one of the attorneys walked me through what next steps I could take to pursue justice. But that route takes years on average. And I wanted to graduate, to pursue my career. And what was very evident to me is that I had to make a choice. Justice or my career. I remember talking to Leland about whether or not I would still be able to pursue my astronaut dreams if I decided to fight for my own civil rights. And Leland says to me, "Space is going to be there." [LAUGHS] The survivor bill of rights includes the right for your rape kit to not be destroyed before the statute of limitations, the right to have a copy of your police report, and the right to have access to your own patient medical records. When I first started, it was hours upon hours of me telling my personal story to politicians. I went home and I cried because it was so tough. The next morning, I was in this Uber ride where I was going to the United States Senate. And he asked me why. So I told him. Tears just welled up in his eyes, and he turned to me and he said, "My daughter is a rape survivor. Thank you so much for fighting for my daughter. Has anyone told you that they love you today? I love you." I'll never forget that dad. I remember standing on the balcony overseeing the floor of the House when the votes were cast. The speaker called in a roll call vote to prove that our country could stand together on something. I watched Elizabeth Warren and Jeff Sessions stand on the floor together and vote for this. It was an incredible moment. In some countries, when a survivor becomes pregnant as a result of her rape, she is forced out of the education system. In some countries, there's a bribery fee to report your rape. I mean, imagine a 14-year-old who has to do that. That's not feasible, and that's not right. We are but a blink of an eye in the universe. So what are we going to do with our flicker on earth? I'm going to use mine to fight for rights and go to space. [LAUGHS]