This fall will mark one year since the #MeToo movement took over social media following the New York Times report of the first (of what became many) allegations of sexual abuse against movie producer Harvey Weinstein. These accusations sparked a wave of women coming forward about their own experiences with sexual assault and abuse. Finally, the world knew what women have known for a long time: Sexism and sexual misconduct is far from over. In fact, it's prevalent in pretty much every industry.
This is something Amanda Nguyen, the founder and president of Rise, knew when she decided to join forces with Time's Up for one of a series of testimonials for StoryCorps. After being raped in 2013, Nguyen saw first-hand how broken the justice system is in regards to sexual assault. It's what inspired the recent Nobel Peace Prize nominee to start Rise in 2014, to create the Sexual Assault Survivors' Rights Act in 2015, and to tell her story for Storycorps along with several other brave women.
In her clip, Nguyen is joined by Star Wars actress Kelly Marie Tran to talk about what she went through. Other pairs include Daniela Conteras from the Domestic Workers Alliance and home healthcare aid June Barrett, actresses Rebecca White and Katy Sullivan (who is also a Paralympic athlete), and directors Kimberly Pierce and Lynn Shelton. The women's stories are as different as they are crucial to understanding the scope of the #MeToo issue. You can listen to their stories, and hear more about what Nguyen has to say about the movement, below.
What does it mean to you to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?
"When most people think about peace, the work that my team is engaged in may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the truth is for the estimated 35 percent of women on Earth who are survivors of sexual violence, access to justice is a necessary prerequisite to true peace. Their lives are the invisible war zones that corrode human potential and hold back the promise of a just world. Their powerlessness is our shame.
This is a peace that we all — senator, citizen, advocate from any corner of the globe — can help deliver. We can hold a light up to this darkest corner of human experience, and allow survivors at last to be seen, to be heard, to be believed, to be empowered."
When you started Rise, were you aware of the prevalent issues of sexual misconduct in Hollywood? Are you surprised by the size of this reckoning?
"I often speak about the number of people I encountered in the waiting room when I first entered the local rape crisis center following my assault. That was the moment I realized this fight is not mine alone. There are millions of survivors who struggle to navigate the criminal justice system just like me — and thousands more who don’t trust the criminal justice system enough to move forward in their pursuit of justice. So yes, I’ve been keenly aware of the prevalence of sexual misconduct — and not just in Hollywood. Sexual assault and sexual violence is pervasive in all industries in all communities to all genders, gender identities, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and nationality. Sexual violence in a global epidemic, affecting 1.3 billion people worldwide.
The world is in a moment of reckoning — not just in the entertainment industry. Around the world, activists are standing up for survivors rights. None of us are invisible when we demand to be seen. And survivors around the world are demanding to be seen."
What are some things you’re hoping Rise and Time’s Up can work together to accomplish?
"The #MeToo movement helped shine a light on the prevalence of sexual violence in the entertainment industry, but it was largely wealthy Caucasian women with resources to find support. What I’m most excited about with Time’s Up is it is making this moment of reckoning accessible to all survivors — not just women, not just wealthy, not just white. I’m most optimistic about the opportunity to pursue intersectional protections for survivors. What’s been really exciting to see is how Rise’s bill, the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights, has become a concrete, tangible action item for people who care about this issue can take in response to the #MeToo moment. It is a proactive step to protect the rights of all sexual violence survivors."
We see this with your story and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s recent primary victory — are young women going to be the ones who actually solve these problems once and for all?
"I have long been a proponent that solutions to our world’s most pressing issues sits with those who live the problems every day. Young women have lived with institutionalized racism, sexual aggression, gun violence, crippling poverty and much more their entire lives. We have a vision of the future and an undeniable drive to make it happen. I am so proud of the Rise movement as it’s being led by young people of color throughout the country who are committed to creating change."
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).