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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.

[rebelmouse-image 19531576 dam="1" original_size="750x421" caption="Wood testifies in front of the House Judiciary Committee. Image via House Judiciary Committee Hearings/YouTube." expand=1]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.

[rebelmouse-image 19531577 dam="1" original_size="750x458" caption="Wood, Nguyen, Libby, and O'Connor appear before Congress. Image via House Judiciary Committee Hearings/YouTube." expand=1]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.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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RumorGuard by The News Literacy Project.

The 2016 election was a watershed moment when misinformation online became a serious problem and had enormous consequences. Even though social media sites have tried to slow the spread of misleading information, it doesn’t show any signs of letting up.

A NewsGuard report from 2020 found that engagement with unreliable sites between 2019 and 2020 doubled over that time period. But we don’t need studies to show that misinformation is a huge problem. The fact that COVID-19 misinformation was such a hindrance to stopping the virus and one-third of American voters believe that the 2020 election was stolen is proof enough.

What’s worse is that according to Pew Research, only 26% of American adults are able to distinguish between fact and opinion.

To help teach Americans how to discern real news from fake news, The News Literacy Project has created a new website called RumorGuard that debunks questionable news stories and teaches people how to become more news literate.

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Family

A mom describes her tween son's brain. It's a must-read for all parents.

"Sometimes I just feel really angry and I don’t know why."

This story originally appeared on 1.05.19


It started with a simple, sincere question from a mother of an 11-year-old boy.

An anonymous mother posted a question to Quora, a website where people can ask questions and other people can answer them. This mother wrote:

How do I tell my wonderful 11 year old son, (in a way that won't tear him down), that the way he has started talking to me (disrespectfully) makes me not want to be around him (I've already told him the bad attitude is unacceptable)?

It's a familiar scenario for those of us who have raised kids into the teen years. Our sweet, snuggly little kids turn into moody middle schoolers seemingly overnight, and sometimes we're left reeling trying to figure out how to handle their sensitive-yet-insensitive selves.


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