How One Woman Went From Campus Assault Survivor To Groundbreaking Legal Advocate

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Laura Dunn

Laura Dunn became an activist, an advocate, a lawyer, a litigator, a founder and an entrepreneur – the day that she survived a campus assault. It was the life-defining experience that could have catapulted her into despair, or become the ultimate act of resilience.

She chose the latter; today she runs the national nonprofit SurvJustice, which provides vital legal assistance to fellow survivors. Since its founding in 2014, they’ve assisted on 189 cases, and Laura has been recognized by the American Law Institute, the American Bar Association, and the White House for her pioneering advocacy.

We hope she inspires you, as she did us.

 Allie Hoffman and Ally Bogard: What have you triumphed over?

Laura Dunn: I am a survivor of campus sexual violence. Two men made a decision to sexually assault me. It was their decision, it was their actions, and it was a very devastating force in my life. Despite that, I do feel like I overcame it by being bold, by speaking up, by demanding justice and not giving up, even when the campus criminal and civil legal systems were closed to me.

I did that by filing a Title IX complaint with the US Department of Education, back before people really knew to do that. Even though that also did not give me justice, my story of struggle was told by the Center for Public Integrity as part of their first investigative series into campus sexual assault.

Because of the media coverage of my struggle for justice, I was able to have my name lifted up to the federal government. I was able to meet with the U.S. Department of Education’s then–Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights, Russlynn Ali, and I was able to share my experience with campus sexual assault to influence federal policy around the enforcement of Title IX.

That policy guidance is now in effect. It has led to hundreds of survivors filing complaints all across the country, and it has led to many changes in results, and to me that’s my triumph.

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