11 Small Victories For Sexual Assault Survivors In 2017

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The road to justice for sexual assault and abuse survivors can sometimes seem like long and difficult, and oftentimes nearly impossible. But despite the obstacles and high-profile cases that reaffirm the challenges sexual assault survivors face, there have been small victories on that front this year.

If you read the news, it may not always seem like it. Ex-Stanford rapist Brock Turner had his sentence reduced. Americans saw and continue to see their neighbors defend President Trump’s history of sexual assault allegations(allegations he has roundly denied). More recently, Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial was set for November — because accusations from nearly 60 women spanning 50 years was not enough to convince the jury. (Cosby, too, denies all allegations.) International headlines don’t seem to be much better at times: Last month, local authorities ordered a Pakistani teenage girl to be publicly raped in her village as punishment after her brother was accused of raping another girl.

Despite the bleak news, coupled with the tense and polarizing atmosphere the U.S. since last election year, there were also a few legal victories. In December, 2016 Americans saw former President Obama and Congress pass the Justice for All Reauthorization Act, a bipartisan effort to help prevent and respond to sexual assault. First signed in 2004, the law was enacted to protect crime victims’ rights, eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits, and expand forensic technology in local, state and federal crime laboratories.

More than halfway through 2017 and sexual assault survivors have already collected some wins in everywhere from college campuses to Silicon Valley. Here are a few reminders to not lose hope:

1. Republican And Democrat Team Up To Support After-Care For Rape Victims

In a bipartisan effort, Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Carol Maloney (D-NY) sponsored the Megan Rondini Act to help give rape victims easier access to medical workers who are trained to support them while they are hospitalized. The bill is named after a University of Alabama student from Texas who committed suicide after a prominent local businessman allegedly raped her. The accused denied the claim, insisting that it was consensual, and ultimately was not charged. Video tapes obtained by Buzzfeed News show Tuscaloosa police questioning Rondini with disbelief. Rondini’s parents claimed their daughter, who withdrew from school to return home, suffered depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder leading up to her suicide. The hospital also botched the rape kit test, Poe said.

Earlier this month the victim’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the alleged attacker and school officials. The suit claims university officials mishandled her allegations and that Rondini was treated as a crime suspect.

“We must ensure that victims of crime have access to assistance and can pursue justice, and this legislation helps to deliver both,” Poe told Buzzfeed News in a statement.

2. Image-Based Sexual Abuse Became Illegal Under Navy And Marine Corps Law

In April the Navy and Marine Corps changed regulations to order to ban members of military from sharing nude photos without consent. The change came after a Pentagon investigation into participants of a closed Facebook group who were sharing nude photographs of hundreds or more female service members and veterans. The photos included personal information about the women, such as name, rank, duty station and social media accounts.

“A Marine who directly participates in, encourages, or condones such actions could also be subjected to criminal proceedings or adverse administrative actions,” the Marine Corps said in an official statement.

It’s not often we think of Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Todd Young on the same page as their Democratic colleagues, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. But members from both parties united for a bill led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein to change the way sporting organizations respond to sexual abuse.

In spring 2016, a former gymnast stepped accused a USA Gymnastics doctor of sexually violating her. Since then, more than 100 women from USA Gymnastics have come forward with accusations and lawsuits against Larry Nassar, the doctor. Similar incidents unrelated to Nassar in USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo have also come to light. The new bill would require amateur athletics governing bodies to immediately report abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department.

Since his accusations, Nassar resigned from USA Gymnastics, was fired from Michigan State University and was arrested on 28 criminal charges. He pleaded not guilty.

3. Congress Introduces A Bipartisan Bill To Protect Athletes From Sexual Abuse

It’s not often we think of Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Todd Young on the same page as their Democratic colleagues, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. But members from both parties united for a bill led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein to change the way sporting organizations respond to sexual abuse.

In spring 2016, a former gymnast stepped accused a USA Gymnastics doctor of sexually violating her. Since then, more than 100 women from USA Gymnastics have come forward with accusations and lawsuits against Larry Nassar, the doctor. Similar incidents unrelated to Nassar in USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo have also come to light. The new bill would require amateur athletics governing bodies to immediately report abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department.

Since his accusations, Nassar resigned from USA Gymnastics, was fired from Michigan State University and was arrested on 28 criminal charges. He pleaded not guilty.

4. Women In Silicon Valley Are Speaking Out

Sexism in Silicon Valley isn’t new. But perhaps for the first time, people all the way up to the high-profile members of the tech industry are being held accountable, whether for sexual harassment allegations or for ignoring the burgeoning culture of misogyny in their companies.

Investors successfully forced the resignation of Uber founder Travis Kalanick, whose ride-hailing service company came under fire for its culture of sexual harassment. Former Uber engineer Susan J. Fowler went viral with a blog post detailing her year of discrimination at Uber. In response, Kalanick called what she described “abhorrent” and instructed the new Chief Human Resources Officer to conduct an investigation into the allegations.

Kalanick wasn’t the only one who came under fire. On July 3 the general partner of seed investment group 500 Startup, Dave McClure, resigned and apologized for putting multiple women at work in compromising and inappropriate situations. Of course, the apology only came after The New York Times reported his behavior. Kalanick and McClure are only a couple of the men in the startup and tech industry who have resigned following such scandals.

It seems that money doesn’t always hold power. Institutional opposition, fueled by employees who are speaking out, are knocking the Silicon Valley elite off their thrones.

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