• World
  • women's rights

‘We Are in a Moment of Reckoning.’ Amanda Nguyen on Taking the Fight for Sexual Violence Survivors to the U.N.

3 minute read

Amanda Nguyen was instrumental in helping to craft and pass the U.S. federal law advocating for sexual violence survivors. For her work, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Now, she’s taking the fight global.

“When the federal U.S. law passed, we heard from over 1 million survivors,” Nguyen told TIME Executive Editor Naina Bajekal Tuesday at Credit Suisse’s Women of Impact event at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. “People from all over the world were writing in saying ‘Hey, I’ve also experienced something similar’ or ‘I’m working on a similar law, can we join forces?’”

So Nguyen and her nonprofit Rise have set their sights on convincing the U.N. to pass an international sexual assault survivors’ bill of rights. “The United Nations has yet to recognize rape in peacetime in legislation, in a resolution, and that’s what we’re fighting for,” she said. They are awaiting a vote in the next few weeks.

“We are in a moment of reckoning where we see that our pain really does matter,” she said. “It’s about world leaders recognizing that in order to be a world leader they must recognize the most vulnerable within their communities.”

Nguyen founded Rise in 2014 as an effort to fight for survivors of sexual violence after she learned that her own rape kit, with evidence that she had been sexually assaulted, was about to be destroyed. Since then the organization has been instrumental in the passage of 55 unanimous laws, she said.

More recently, Nguyen has emerged as a powerful representative of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community—speaking boldly about anti-Asian hate. In 2021, she released a viral video about how little mainstream coverage these incidents had garnered. The response was swift. Joe Biden addressed the issue in his first primetime speech as President. “That was not what I had expected. I literally thought I was going to lose followers,” Nguyen says.

She had thought about staying quiet, but then realized speaking out was important to her. “There are two people that we all have to impress in our lives and that’s our 8-year-old self and our 80-year-old self. I felt like those two people would encourage me to speak up and speak my truth and so I did.”

The event, which Credit Suisse organized in partnership with TIME, also featured South African businesswoman and philanthropist Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe and Dr. Geetha Murali, the CEO of education organization Room to Read.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Sanya Mansoor at sanya.mansoor@time.com