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

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

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

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.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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