Watch Evan Rachel Wood's powerful testimony on sexual assault.

'This is called progress, and it starts here.'

For years, actress Evan Rachel Wood has been an outspoken advocate for sexual abuse survivors. On Feb. 27, she took that fight to Congress.

It was a bit of a "Ms. Wood Goes to Washington" type of moment. Joined by Rebecca O'Connor of the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) and Amanda Nguyen and Lauren Libby of the nonprofit Rise, the "Westworld" actress testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Together, the women brought their stories of pain and perseverance, advocating on behalf of survivors around the country.

"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 before going into detail about her history as a sexual assault survivor. "I accepted my powerlessness, and I felt I deserved it somehow."


That feeling of powerlessness, of feeling that the system is rigged against survivors, is a big part of the problem. In a lot of ways, the system is rigged against survivors — which is why the Survivors' Bill of Rights is so important.

Wood testifies in front of the House Judiciary Committee. Image via House Judiciary Committee Hearings/YouTube.

The Survivors' Bill of Rights was signed into law by President Barack Obama in October 2016 after passing through Congress with unanimous support.

The law establishes that sexual assault survivors have the right to a forensic medical examination without cost to them, the right for evidence collection kits (aka "rape kits") to be preserved for 20 years (unless a state-level statute of limitations is shorter, in which case, evidence will be preserved for that amount of time), and the right to be notified before evidence is disposed of. Additionally, the law mandates that survivors have access to counselors and the ability to track when and where their rape kit is being tested.

Groups like End the Backlog and RAINN have pushed to address the issue of untested rape kits, and the Survivors' Bill of Rights provides a bit more accountability on that front — though it stops short of providing the funding necessary to make testing automatic. As Wood noted in her testimony, it's "a safety net that may save someone's life some day," but not a be-all and end-all for protecting survivors.

Wood, Nguyen, Libby, and O'Connor appear before Congress. Image via House Judiciary Committee Hearings/YouTube.

At least nine states have adopted their own version of the Survivors' Bill of Rights. This testimony urged the others to follow suit.

There's only so much the federal government can do to protect survivors. The passage of the Survivors' Bill of Rights set a strong example for state and local officials to look toward when it comes to how they handle assault and conversations with survivors. As Nguyen notes in her testimony, "most rape cases are adjudicated in state courts," where federal protections don't necessarily apply.

To find out where your state stands on the Survivors' Bill of Rights and learn how you can get involved in the fight for justice, visit the Rise website.

If you're interested in a slightly more lighthearted take on this serious subject, check out this PSA Wood did for Funny or Die. It shows just how prevalent the issue of sexual assault and harassment is.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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