Break the Rules Like ... Amanda Nguyen

Not all Wonder Women wear capes, and not all Unladylike role models need to sit in the C-suite to spark change. Each week, we're introducing y'all to rad women and nonbinary folks we admire. They'll offer up pointers on how we all can #breaktheruleslike they do and help them make the world a better place. If you have a role model to shout out, send hot tips to hello@unladylike.co. 

 Amanda Nguyen, who drafted the Sexual Assault Survivor's Bill of Rights and founded nonprofit Rise, was  nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize  in spring 2018. (Photo courtesy Amanda Nguyen)

Amanda Nguyen, who drafted the Sexual Assault Survivor's Bill of Rights and founded nonprofit Rise, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in spring 2018. (Photo courtesy Amanda Nguyen)

1. Introduce yourself: Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?

My name is Amanda Nguyen, I am a 26 years old and I like to say I’m a civil rights astronaut. I am a Harvard graduate, former NASA intern and former White House state department staffer. I founded Rise in 2014 after encountering a broken criminal justice system following my own sexual assault. I needed to fight for my own civil rights and founded a nonprofit to help guarantee civil rights protections for other survivors as well. The Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights passed unanimously in the United States Congress, becoming the 21st bill to do so in United States history. The bill was signed into law by President Obama in 2016. Now, me and my team are working state-by-state to codify these rights at the state level and are actively working to bring a worldwide Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights.

2. When did you first realize this was the right path for you?

I wasn’t looking for a career in or adjacent to politics. I’m a bit of a nerd and wanted to pursue science and space exploration. But after my assault, I discovered so many other survivors who experienced the same injustice I did, many of whom had fewer resources at their disposal. I had a choice to make: I could either accept injustice or rewrite the law. Being faced with that decision ignited my drive; hearing from other survivors about the impact our bill has on their lives fuels this fire daily.

3. What’s unladylike about you and what you do?

I think just generally in society women are taught to be quiet and submissive and not take up space. That’s not really my style. I saw an injustice and spoke up about it. Loudly. To as many people who would listen. Further, as a woman of color — and a young woman of color —  I’m often the only “diverse” voice in the room. I wholeheartedly believe the solutions to society’s most pressing problems lie with the people who live the problem every day. And that means including their voices at the table. I’m committed to making space at the table for these voices.

All of this — taking up space, speaking out, including marginalized voices — has been central to Rise’s mission and work and has helped us become one of the most successful social movements in modern U.S. history — but it’s not always met with open arms in our hallowed political institutions.

4. Which of your heroes or role models would you immortalize in bronze?

I would love to see Rosa Parks immortalized and her full story told. Most people remember Rosa for initiating the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, but very few know it was the investigation of a sexual assault against Recy Taylor that ignited her fervor for justice. She was outspoken and proud and defiant, and her entire story is incredibly inspiring.

5. What was your feminist aha moment?

Am I allowed to say my birth? I’m going to say it: my birth. The moment I was brought into this world, I innately knew equality would be a fight. And I’ve been fighting ever since.

6. What’s bringing you joy right now — or at least keeping you sane?

Rocket launches! I had the incredible privilege of witnessing Delta IV carry NASA’s Parker Solar Mission to the sun in early August 2018 alongside Dr. Eugene Parker, who dedicated his career to solar physics. I wrote an emotionally charged social post about the entire experience, but the Cliff’s Notes version is simple: space is my happy place!

7. Aside from keys/wallet/phone, what do you never leave home without?

So many opportunities to prove I’m a nerd: my meteorite ring!

8. How can unladies help you and/or your mission?

What’s great about the Rise movement is that every aspect of our mission is a direct action item to create progress. We call it gamifying the legislative process. We are always looking for additional voices to add to our organizing team on the ground in each state. You can visit www.risenow.us to learn more or sign up to join the movement.

Because we’re a nonprofit, the only thing to ever hold us back is resources. Though we have incredible partners who have believed in our mission for years, we’re ready to grow. If you believe in what we’re doing, please consider making a gift at www.risenow.us or emailing risehq@risenow.us.

The most pressing thing unladies can help us accomplish an immediate goal is signing our Change.org petition to create a Worldwide Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. With this petition, we are targeting United Nations leaders and UN Member Nations to make sexual violence a priority.  

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