United Nations Survivor Town Hall Speech
Rise, an international civil rights organization, hosted the first ever UN Sexual Violence Survivor Town Hall during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Along with survivors from around the world, I spoke at this event to educate world leaders and announce the "Worldwide Sexual Violence Survivor Rights United Nations Resolution” that is planned to be introduced in January 2020.
Hello. My name is Melody van der Veen.
Sexual abuse is a great evil and a great crime affecting every family, institution, and nation. If you believe that this is a human rights crisis, as the existence of 1.3 billion global survivors confirms it is, then why with movements like Me Too, is this pandemic far from over? The answer lies in the reality that survivors continue to be the essential missing piece in abuse prevention and human rights efforts.
It is not enough to believe survivors — legislation must begin with survivors.
After national news broke Rachael Denhollander’s account of abuse by Larry Nassar, I was one of the first to file a subsequent police report. My report led to the investigation of Nassar’s home, where over 37,000 images of child pornography were found, leading to his imprisonment without bail and a guilty plea. For the first nine months of the case, I suffered alone, watching the number of survivors climb while being pressured to drop charges. Because I did not have access to a victim advocate, the compounding trauma did cause me to drop charges just three days before the preliminary trial. Stories like mine are the reason why implementing a survivor-centric approach to this crisis is so important.
Until survivors are placed in positions of power to influence systems and laws that affect our rights, change will never come.
Sharing my truth, and I argue the truth, about my experience does not end abuse. Awareness without action is careless. The criminal justice system and our governing leaders are not yet trauma informed, and therefore are unprepared to protect the rights of survivors and hold perpetrators accountable regardless of race, age, or socioeconomic status.
To the leaders here who have the power to affect this system, I pray that you or someone you love never has to face the trauma that my fellow survivors and I were forced to endure. Allow our stories and trauma to speak to you and inform you. Since we lived it, we are experts in sexual abuse and if empowered by you, we could become your greatest resource.
In essence, survivors hold the solution.
It is not enough to have a seat at the table, we need you to make us a partner in this honorable cause. 1.3 billion of us will thank you.