'Westworld' star tells lawmakers about rape in plea for assault victims
© Greg Nash

Actress Evan Rachel Wood on Tuesday shared her story of sexual assault and urged lawmakers to do more to expand survivors' rights across the country.

“There are two specific instances of sexual assault and violence that really stick out in my mind,” Wood, 30, told lawmakers at a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. “They are burned into my brain and branded there for life — a mental scar that I feel every day.”

During her testimony, Wood described “sick rituals” where she was physically bound and mentally and physically tortured until her abuser felt she had “proven her love for them.” She said she woke up to her partner “raping what he believed to be [her] unconscious body.”

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Wood said she was raped again and said her attacker repeatedly told her: "You're going to be fine." She said those words still haunt her to this day.

“I felt a piece of me disappear, a piece that has never returned,” Wood said. “It was not fine, and I am not fine.”

Seven years after her assaults, Wood was diagnosed with long-term post-traumatic stress disorder. She said she attempted suicide twice.

In 2016, then-President Obama signed the Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights. The law created a bill of rights for assault survivors and ensured access to rape evidence kits in federal criminal trials. Under the law, victims of sexual violence can receive free forensic medical exams. The bill also requires that rape kits in federal trials be preserved until the statute of limitation expires or 20 years. Victims must then be notified before their rape kits are destroyed.

But advocates for victims' rights, including Wood, say those protections need to be extended to all states and are pushing to pass similar laws in all 50 state legislatures.

“This recognition of basic civil rights for sexual assault survivors serves as a first step,” Wood said. "It's a safety net that may help save someone's life some day."

The star of HBO's “Westworld” was joined by a representative from the nonprofit Rise, which advocates for sexual assault survivors' rights.

Amanda Nguyen, founder of Rise, said she discovered irregularities in how states process sexual assault cases after she was raped.

Nguyen said some states prematurely destroy rape kits and others deny survivors a copy of their police report.

“I realized I had a choice, accept the injustice or take change in my own hands,” she said.

Nguyen and members of Rise helped draft the Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights Act.

“To have access to your rape kit is crucial and to have them not destroyed is crucial,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeePelosi calls on Ryan to bring long-term Violence Against Women Act to floor Congress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms Jackson Lee: Dems must be 'vigilant' in ensuring all Americans have right to vote  MORE (D-Texas), a committee member, hailing the law's changes.

Ten states have passed similar legislation, and lawmakers from both parties said they hope to expand those protections.

“It is my hope that very soon we will see these rights established in 50 states,” said Rep. Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteHouse Judiciary chair threatens subpoena if DOJ doesn’t supply McCabe memos by Tuesday Rosenstein report gives GOP new ammo against DOJ House Judiciary chair: Nellie Ohr is cooperating, will testify MORE (R-Va.), the chairman of the full House Judiciary Committee.