As It Happens

She's 24, a White House staffer and drafting a bill to change sex assault laws

Driven by her own experience with a "broken" criminal justice system, a 24-year-old State Department staffer has proposed a bill to guarantee and standardize rights for sexual assault and rape survivors.
State Department staffer helps draft bill designed to standardize the rights of people who have experienced sexual assault in the United States. (Amanda Nguyen)
Listen6:34

Amanda Nguyen may be a junior employee at the White House, but she's a driving force behind a new bill that would help improve and standardize the rights of people who have experienced sexual assault.

I'm a survivor and the worst thing that's ever happened to me was not the rape itself, but rather being denied basic rights by the country that I love.- Amanda Nguyen

The Sexual Assault Survivors' Rights Act was introduced by Democrats in the U.S. Senate today and it's a bill Nguyen helped draft.

As Nguyen tells As it Happens host Carol Off, it's vital to her that she make a difference.

"This piece of legislation was born from my personal experience with the broken criminal justice system. I'm a survivor and the worst thing that's ever happened to me was not the rape itself, but rather being denied basic rights by the country that I love."

Nguyen says she was sexually assaulted in Massachusetts and had a rape kit examination done within 24 hours of the assault. But, in that state, the rape kit can be removed from the forensic lab and destroyed after six months.

"What this means is that survivors, every six months, have to fight to hold onto this evidence from the trash can," explains Nguyen.

The statue of limitations for pressing charges can be up to 15 years.

Nguyen goes on to say that there is no consistency in what she describes as a "patchwork" of sexual assault rights and laws across the country. Some states have massive backlogs in testing rape kits. In other states, the subjects of the rape kits are not notified if their kit is destroyed.

"The catch is that there actually isn't a way to extend the kit, there is no standard operating procedure, which makes me live my life by date of rape. I have to do this every six months. And it also means that justice is dependent on geography because, in other states, they don't destroy kits."

Nguyen hopes her bill will help standardize the protection of rape kits and DNA evidence and will provide health and legal counseling for those who have experienced sexual assault.

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