Rise Spotlight: Meet Jennifer

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Why do you Rise?
I rise because changing legislation is the only form of justice I will ever see from our system. For some survivors, the most painful part of the experience isn’t the just rape itself, but that our criminal justice system continually and infuriatingly fails and retraumatizes us.

The laws I help pass will never apply to me, since they are not retroactive. But knowing that I’m helping other survivors in a concrete way helps me feel like I’m finally able to have some control over my own narrative.

What has been your experience with Rise so far?
Surreal. I feel like I’m in a Legally Blonde movie, but better. Amanda has made the impossible happen, and it’s because she is an amazing leader who truly believes in Risers. She guides us to create the change ourselves, and that has been an empowering and healing experience. I’ve also met some of the best people through Rise; Brenda Tracey and Lauren Libby were two of the earliest Risers I met, and those two have such big hearts. I just love the Rise community.

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What has been your proudest moment?
Testifying in front of the Public Safety Committee in Sacramento for our California bill, AB 1312. This was the first committee hearing for the bill, and it was going to set the tone for the rest of the bill’s journey through the legislative process.

I woke up at 5am to make it to the 8am hearing, as I was travelling to Sacramento from Oakland. I practiced my testimony in front of the mirror many times the night before, and I didn’t get emotional. But as soon as I spoke in front of those committee members, my voice was shaking. I can write letters of support and go through iterations of legislative language, but having to explain the importance of the bill from a personal standpoint to a room full of strangers was different.

I’m glad I testified; the bill ended up passing unanimously out of the committee, both chambers, and was signed into law by Governor Brown.

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What do you do when you’re not changing the world with Rise?
I do communications work for a labor union, play with my cat, watch a lot of cooking TV, and eat a lot of yummy food.

Once we’ve addressed the justice system, what do you want to do next for survivors?
I want to smash the “good victim” narrative; there is no right or wrong way to be a survivor. Many survivors don’t come forward because we are made to question whether our rapes are “enough,” whether knowing our rapists will affect how others see the “legitimacy” of the rape, whether the way we reacted afterwards was the “proper” way to do it, and so many other factors. Every one of our experiences is valid.

Which Golden Girls do you identify with?
Sophia Petrillo because she has no filter. Also because I am secretly a curmudgeonly old lady; I carry tiger balm, a handkerchief, and an extra sweater in my purse, and steal all the napkins in the restaurant.

Who’s your alter ego?
Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn 99. I love her because she’s a badass and she hates feelings as much as I do. Feelings are hard.