The last few months have brought waves of sexual assault accusations against powerful figures in media, politics, and business. This has led to a growing public recognition of the widespread nature of sexual assault in American culture. But in addition to awareness, some activists are fighting for legal protections for abuse survivors. On Tuesday, Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to testify about her experiences with sexual assault on behalf of the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, which has gone into effect at the federal level but still needs to be implemented in all 50 states. The law gives sexual abuse survivors the right to have their rape kit preserved for the entire duration of the statute of limitations (or up to 20 years), as well as the right to know their forensic results.
Wood testified about her own horrific experience with abuse: “It started slow but escalated over time, including threats against my life, severe gaslighting and brainwashing, [and] waking up to the man that claimed to love me raping what he believed to be my unconscious body. And the worst part: Sick rituals of binding me up by my hands and feet to be mentally and physically tortured until my abuser felt I had proven my love for them.”
She also talked about how one rape led to another, and the long-term corrosive effect of sexual assault: “Because of this abuse, when I was pushed onto the floor of a locked storage closet by another attacker, after hours at a bar, my body instinctively knew what to do: Disappear, go numb, make it go away. Being abused and raped previously made it easier for me to be raped again, not the other way around.”
Wood appeared alongside RISE CEO Amanda Nguyen and RAINN Vice President Rebecca O’Connor in order to promote the full expansion Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act. The bill has passed in nine states, but Wood spoke forcefully in her testimony about the need to pass it everywhere in order to start building a society where survivors like her don’t wake up sweating fearfully in the night and young boys like her son aren’t brought up with the idea that all men are uncontrollable monsters.
“This bill is just one step in the right direction of setting the bar higher for what’s right and what the standard will be that we will set for society,” Wood said. “The recognition of basic civil rights for sexual assault survivors serves as a first step. It’s a safety net that may save someone’s life one day. Even though we passed this bill at a federal level, there’s still work to be done. In order to ensure all survivors are protected under this law, we need to pass this bill in all 50 states. We’ve done this in nine so far, and it’s our job to make sure that survivors in the remaining 41 are treated with the same humanity and dignity. This is called progress and it starts here.”
Watch the full video of Wood’s Congressional testimony above.