When Seattle resident Leah Griffin attempted to obtain a rape kit at a hospital following an assault, she was told she would have to either take an expensive ambulance or drive herself to another hospital miles away. The one she was in didn’t do rape kits and didn’t have a registered Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), and she encountered police officers who didn’t seem to have been trained to work with survivors.
Last week, Prachi reported on Griffin’s successful efforts to lobby her representatives to make rape kits available in every hospital—which resulted in surge of momentum, and which has led to a number of statewide reforms, and to Sen. Patty Murray reintroducing the Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act on a federal level.
On Friday’s episode of Big Time Dicks, we speak with Leah Griffin again, about what it takes to turn a personal trauma into advocacy.
“The problems that I’ve encountered are universally bad—nobody thinks it’s good that the police don’t know how to talk to survivors,” she says. “Nobody thinks it’s good that hospitals can turn survivors away without providing evidence collection. Nobody is on the other side of these issues, and I think that makes it a lot easier for me than advocating for issues that are more controversial.
“The most powerful tool we have as advocates and as citizens is the power of our stories. So the first thing that I would recommend to people is to write down your story and when you go to lawmakers and you go to people with influence, that story should really have four parts. You should begin with a challenge, and then a choice, and then an outcome, and then an ask.”
Griffin walks us through the process of choosing what representatives to contact, what to say, and how to be as convincing and effective as possible. And then said, quite powerfully, that she’s realized that the system of dealing with assault survivors isn’t broken—it never existed in the first place.
“This is an issue that men and women, primarily women, have been dealing with since the dawn of time, since history began, and we’re not much better at dealing with sexual assault in the United States in 2017 than we were during the Renaissance or the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages,” she said. “If we don’t seriously start talking about this and survivors don’t start stepping up and saying, ‘Me too, this is a problem, this is real,’ then we’re not going to fix it.”
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In Pasadena this weekend? Join Big Time Dicks for a panel at Politicon, where we’ll be joined by commentator Sally Kohn, activist Julissa Arce, and comedian Grace Parra.