Ending sexual violence takes all of us. This Women’s History Month, we’ve been highlighting and celebrating the activists and leaders who inspire us in our own work. Their legacy and example show what’s possible—and we are honored to recognize their impact this month and all year long. We are encouraged by their words and continually reminded that all of us have unique gifts we bring to this fight.
Keep reading to meet some of our heroes…
In 1944, Taylor was walking home from church when she was kidnapped by a gang of white men who sexually assaulted her. Although the men confessed, this was the Jim Crow South and the police refused to investigate and press charges. As outrage mounted, the NAACP sent Rosa Parks to investigate, organize, and find justice. Parks and other Black activists were able to advocate for a grand jury.
Taylor was threatened and intimidated, but she refused to stay silent, testifying in court against her attackers. She underwent two grand juries, but neither resulted in any charges. Finally, in 2011, the Alabama Legislature issued a formal apology for failing to prosecute her attackers.
An author, journalist, and activist, Brownmiller wrote a book, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, that has shaped the way our culture talks about and understands sexual violence. Published in 1975, the book chronicles the history, politics, and sociology of sexual violence. It is also the first book to use the term date rape—defined as sexual assault in which there has been some sort of romantic or potentially sexual relationship between the victim and the person who has done harm.
Brownmiller’s keen eye for detail and comprehensive analysis of history made Against Our Will a seminal text in the fight against sexual violence.
Tarana Burke has been an activist and advocate since she was a teenager. In the early 2000s, she began working with survivors of sexual violence in Selma, Alabama—many of whom were young Black girls—eventually leading to her founding the #MeToo movement. The movement was designed to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual violence in society and its impact on Black women and girls. It was also an entry point to healing for survivors and helped develop survivors into leaders in the movement.
In 2017, #MeToo went viral and Burke received national and global recognition. Her dedication to survivor-led activism and survivor-centered solutions have made a difference for countless victims and survivors of sexual violence and changed the movement for the better.
Amanda Nguyen is an activist and the founder of Rise, a nonprofit dedicated to codifying civil rights. In 2016 she authored the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, which was signed into law by President Obama. She also authored and passed the Survivors’ Resolution through the United Nations General Assembly. Her work has made a difference for survivors, supported activists around the world, and ignited a wave of collective action to stop Asian hate in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mary P. Koss
Mary Koss led the first large-scale survey of rape prevalence on college campuses, leading to the 1987 study The Scope of Rape: Incidence and Prevalence of Sexual Aggression and Victimization in a National Sample of Higher Education Students. This groundbreaking study researched the prevalence and effects of sexual violence on women’s lives and informed policy and practice. A renowned psychologist, she also produced comprehensive research on the psychological consequences of sexual violence, informing early efforts to support victims and survivors.
She is also credited with developing the concept of “rape culture.”
Chanel Miller is an artist, writer, and activist who has made a significant impact on today’s movement to end sexual violence. In 2019, she shared her story of sexual violence in the powerful memoir, Know My Name, detailing her trauma, the dehumanizing experience of the court case, and her long road to healing and advocacy.
She’s spoken up about the survivor experience and shared her megaphone with many other survivors, elevating their voices to challenge our culture of sexual violence.
These are just some of the countless women who are in this fight—past and present. We hope you have someone, whether they’re on this list or not, that inspires your activism and encourages you when change feels impossible.