Campus Rape’s Toughest Young Attorney Is Ready For Trump & Devos

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Photo: Stephen Voss/Buzzfeed News

After reporting that her college teammates had raped her, Laura Dunn could have stayed in the shadows. Instead, she drove a movement.

Lately, Laura Dunn has tried to avoid thinking about rape on the weekends, but it doesn’t come naturally for the meticulous lawyer. Her idea of unwinding includes binge-watching Law & Order: SVU, not exactly light entertainment for a woman whose weeks are spent fielding calls and emails about the very topic — sexual assault — that dominates the show. For Dunn, though, this world of virtuous detectives and prosecutors is an escape from the calls and emails she receives from people asking for help, from the start of her workday at 8 a.m. until she’s collapsing into bed around 11 p.m. People who’ve been raped, people whose children were raped, people whose reports of rape were ignored and who finally got fed up enough to do something about it.

People like Laura Dunn.

If you saw Dunn, 31, walking along K Street with her shoulder-length brown hair draped over her blazer and modest blouse, you might take her for a young civil servant in the federal government, toeing the line of some older white guy. Dunn is nothing of the sort. She runs SurvJustice, a nonprofit that in its brief lifespan is credited with ushering in at least 120 federal investigations of schools around the country. She spent time at Joe Biden’s official vice presidential residence, and one of Biden’s former advisers, Lynn Rosenthal, sits on SurvJustice’s board. State and federal lawmakers ask her to endorse legislation. Still, Dunn wants more. Much more.

“I’m always mad that we’re not bigger,” said Dunn, matter-of-factly. “I want to be Gloria Allred big. People know if your civil rights get violated, you go to the ACLU. I want people to know if you get raped, you go to SurvJustice.”

The nation reckoned with sexual violence like never before during Barack Obama’s tenure, due in part to actions taken by his administration, but more so because of survivors coming forward about what had happened to them. Women stood up against the famous men they say abused them, like Bill Cosby or Darren Sharper, and hallowed institutions like Penn State and Baylor University were publicly accused of prioritizing football above stopping sex crimes on campus. So much progress was made discussing rape that many pundits and writers — including Dunn — assumed Donald Trump, a man widely condemned for describing how he would commit sexual assault, could never be elected.

Trump’s victory wasn’t just a cultural shock for people like Dunn. It brought fears that his administration would roll back enforcement of federal rules intended to help campus rape victims. An even bigger worry for many advocates is that they’ve just lost a president who spoke out against sexual violence and who has been replaced by one who defended his own misogyny as “locker room talk.”

“I did not picture any alternative to Hillary winning,” Dunn said. “So I was surprised and it did cause some panic — everything I’ve spent years working on already may get pushed back. It was definitely something I personally mourned.”

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