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Evan Rachel Wood testifies before Congress to advocate for sex abuse survivors

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Evan Rachel Wood at the HBO’s “Westworld” Los Angeles Premiere on September 28, 2016. (Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA/TNS)

Actress Evan Rachel Wood, of HBO’s “Westworld” fame, has long been an advocate for sexual abuse survivors. On Tuesday, she gave powerful testimony before Congress.

Wood spoke before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, joined by Rebecca O’Connor of the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network and Amanda Nguyen and Lauren Libby of the nonprofit Rise. Along with the other women, Wood brought her stories of pain and resilience to advocate for survivors across the country.

Wood described herself as “a domestic violence and sexual assault survivor and the single mother of a young boy,” and the daughter of a survivor herself.

Wood said she was using her influence and position as an actor, survivor, mother and advocate “to bring a human voice to the population of 25 million survivors in the U.S. who are currently experiencing inequality under the law and who desperately need basic civil rights.”

While movements such as “#MeToo” and “#TimesUp” have been empowering for survivors, Wood said, they’ve also been incredibly painful.

“I thought I was the only human who experienced this, and I carried so much guilt and confusion about my response to the abuse,” said Wood, who then described her history as a survivor. “I accepted my powerlessness, and I felt I deserved it somehow.”

The Survivors’ Bill of Rights became a federal law with President Barack Obama’s signature in October 2016 after passing Congress with unanimous support. It set an example for state and local authorities on how to handle survivor cases. However, most rape cases are adjudicated in state courts, where federal protections don’t necessarily apply.

The law gives sexual assault survivors the right to forensic medical exams with no cost to them; establishes that evidence collection kits, also known as “rape kits” are preserved for 20 years unless state statute sets a shorter limitation; gives survivors the right to access counselors; and gives survivors the ability to track their rape kit when and where it’s tested.

The Survivors’ Bill of Rights was intended to create the kind of accountability in the issue of untested rape kits that groups such as RAINN and End the Backlog have worked for for years.

BLACK PANTHER GIVES BACK

The Walt Disney Company is donating $1 million to a dozen Boys & Girls Clubs of America, amid the box office success of “Black Panther.”

Disney announced Monday it is making the donation in honor of the record-breaking film. The money will expand the Boys & Girls Club’s science, technology, engineering and math programs.

The one-time grant will be used to further the organization’s existing STEM curriculum and establish new STEM-focused centers in 12 cities across the country including Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore and New Orleans.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY
Author Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) is 48 … Singer Cindy Wilson of The B-52’s is 61 … Comedian Gilbert Gottfried is 63.

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