People You Should Know

Jyoti Singh Pandey, 23, Delhi, India
Why you should know her name: Previously known to the world as "India's Daughter," Jyioti Singh Pandey was a 23 year old student in India.  She boarded a bus on her way home from a movie on December 16, 2012.  Over the course of the next few hours she was brutally raped, beaten, and her naked body was thrown from the bus.  She died two weeks later of massive organ failure and brain injuries she suffered during her violent attack.  Her attack has galvanized men, women and children alike throughout India, and the world, to fight for stricter laws, stronger punishments and more rapid court processes for rapists.  Her attack has brought the world spotlight upon India and her political figures, many of whom have rape charges pending against them.  While the names of rape victims are usually not made public, her father, Badri Singh, released his daughter's name stating, "We want the world to know her real name. My daughter didn't do anything wrong, she died while protecting herself.  I am proud of her.  Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks.  They will find strength from my daughter."
To me, Jyoti is a hero.  She fought for her life against six monsters who raped, beat and tortured her over a period of hours.  She never gave up her fight.  She has set the wheels of change in motion across India.  May those wheels never stop turning until true change takes root.

Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden
Why you should know his name: In 1994, then-Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) drafted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  Through Mr. Biden's leadership, Congress enacted the legislation and it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994.
Then-Senator and now Vice President Biden has been a champion of this cause.  VAWA provided much needed services and supports for victims of violence, including: the federal rape shield law, funding for victim assistance services like rape crisis centers and hotlines, and legal aid for female victims of violence.  Even though, on January 2, 2013, the Senate failed to reauthorize VAWA by not bringing it up for a vote by the end of the 2012 session, Vice President Biden continues to use the power of his office to make the United States safer for women and protect the victims of violence.
UPDATE 2/25/13: VAWA has been reintroduced in a bipartisan bill.  It passed in the United States  Senate by a 78-22 vote and it passed in the United States House of Representatives by a 286-138 vote, with unanimous Democratic support and the support of 87 Republicans.
VAWA Fact Sheet

Tori Amos - Musician, Survivor and Activist
Why you should know her name: In June 1994, Tori Amos, herself a rape survivor, co-founded the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN).
RAINN provides victim services, works to create, sustain and change public policy, and prevention services. Tori Amos has used her music and celebrity to speak out for rape, abuse and incest victims.
Personally, she is one of my heroes and one of the people I would most like to meet simply to say "Thank you."  When I was lost, her music was the light that guided me through.  Ms. Amos, if you ever happen upon my blog, please know you helped save my life and kept me going.
Tori Amos - The Official Website


Lydia Tillman - Survivor
Why you should know her name: After seeing Lydia's story of courage and survival in NBC's Dateline, I became inspired by her.  After a real life nightmare complete with rape and fire and enduring horrific injuries at the hands of a monster, Lydia had the strength to walk into the courtroom on the day of the monster's sentencing.  She stood in front of him and, through her father's voice, forgave the person who tried to end her life.  Lydia has a brilliant spirit and a huge heart.  Her new motto, "Live Your Days Inspired Anew," which is an acronym for her name, is inspiring thousands of people.  Visit Friends of Lydia on Facebook to learn about her amazing road to full recovery.

Malala Yousafzai - Student and Activist
Why you should know her name: In October 2012, Malala was shot in the head for daring to speak out against the Taliban while she spoke up for education for girls.  Malala knew that she was Taliban target, but she remained undeterred and continued to go to school.  After a wound that almost took her life, Malala Yousafzai is now thriving and going back to the place she loves...school, albeit in a much safe location.  Her shooting rallied the women of Pakistan to come out in force for the education of girls.  The women stood up to send a message to the Taliban that they support Malala and everything she stands for. 
On July 12, 2013, Malala Yousafzai stood and addressed the United Nations.  She celebrated her 16th birthday by calling 1,000 young leaders from 100 nations saying, "Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. "One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first."  You can find the entire Associated Press article here: Malala Yousafzai celebrates 16th birthday addressing the UN

Lydia Cuomo - Teacher, Survivor and Activist
Why you should know her name: In August 2011, Lydia had the unthinkable happen...she was attacked and raped by a police officer in and alley in broad daylight. People who heard the commotion called 911 and the police caught their fellow officer in the act.  Lydia had been raped orally, anally and vaginally all while being told she would be shot to death if she screamed or opened her eyes.  At trial, the jury, bound by the antiquated New York state rape laws which stated rape was only classified as vaginal penetration, couldn't come to a verdict on rape charges.  The perpetrator was found guilty on sexual assault charges, but on the charge of rape, it was a hung jury because they couldn't decide if there was vaginal penetration.  Lydia wanted justice and wanted the law changed. This amazing survivor took her fight all the way to Albany and the "Rape is Rape" law has just passed the New York State Assembly.  
Lydia, on behalf of all survivors, thank you for your strength and your unbreakable spirit!
Here is a link to the CNN video about Lydia's story.  Lydia Cuomo fights to change the law.

Michelle Knight - Survivor, Author and Warrior
Why you should know her name: Michelle Knight was kidnapped, repeatedly raped, beaten, brutalized and held captive for 11 years in Cleveland, Ohio by a monster who, over the course of those years, did the same to two other girls.  In 2013, one of the girls was able to break free and someone finally heard their cries for help.  When the monster was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 1,000 years, Michelle Knight was there and finally had her say.  You can view her victim impact statement here:
Since giving her victim statement, Michelle has rebuilt her life brick by brick.  She is going to culinary school, wrote a book about her ordeal titled, Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings.  Michelle is now focusing her life on living her dreams and helping other survivors.



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