Fighting for Women's Equality

45th Anniversary Gender Justice Honorees: Emerging Leaders of Courage

June 5, 2019 | by

To celebrate our 45th anniversary, we’re honoring gender justice champions who have worked passionately to transform our workplaces and schools into spaces where every woman, student, and nonbinary person can thrive. They will be honored at our 45th Anniversary Gala Luncheon on June 14 in San Francisco.

Honorees: Myriah Epino, Julia Sanchez, and Amelia Wagoner

A first generation college athlete, Myriah survived a sexual assault by a fellow student athlete her first semester of college. When she reported the assault to her school, they issued a mutual no-contact order, meaning Myriah’s movements were suddenly restricted and she faced potential discipline if she accidentally violated the order, or if her assailant tried to use it against her in retaliation — which he did. The school’s investigation dragged on for far too long, taking its toll on Myriah, and when her assailant violated the no-contact order, the school did nothing and called her not credible. Myriah ultimately had to transfer, and even then, the school used her transcripts as a bargaining chip to force her to comply because the assailant had accused her of violating the no-contact order.

“No one should be put through all of this after reporting rape. No one should be forced to relive it over and over again. Or have to watch all the time where they go and who they’re with, just because they wanted to feel safe at their own school.”  – Amelia

Myriah unfortunately was not the first to be punished by her school for reporting sexual assault, but she was the first to courageously bring that school system’s horrifying unwritten policy to ERA’s attention. We honor Myriah for her bravery in being the first student from this large California college system to alert us to the insidious ways the schools’ negligence was actively harming survivors. In this way, Myriah is a pioneer, and she is now also a courageous spokesperson against such abuse.

Amelia and Julia, after separately surviving sexual assault by the same student assailant and reporting to their college, were both also failed by their school’s dismissive and retaliatory response. They met each other while enduring their college’s harmful practices and discovered they had been assaulted by the same person. Both turned to ERA for legal assistance. In addition to being disbelieved, victim-blamed, and shamed, Amelia endured multiple retaliatory appeals to her complaint with seemingly no end in sight. Julia wasn’t informed of her right to file a Title IX complaint and launch an investigation in a timely manner, resulting in additional harm at the hands of the assailant, before finally being told about her rights.

“I was glad to finally have a partner in fighting for what I knew was right. Neither of us wanted to see this happen to anyone else.”  – Julia

Despite their school’s attempt to keep them apart, Amelia and Julia connected and helped each other through their school’s botched Title IX complaint process. Now, they’re both speaking out publicly because they don’t want other student survivors to endure what they went through. Amelia supported ERA’s lawsuit against the Department of Education by speaking at a press conference and writing a letter to the editor that appeared in The New York Times, and Julia is supporting California Senate Bill 493 to protect the rights of college students after reports of sexual assault and harassment, also authoring an op-ed. Myriah will be one of the first student spokespeople for our initiative to End Sexual Violence in Education (ESVE.) ERA is proud to represent these three incredibly brave student survivors, whose leadership is instrumental to the concrete reforms taking place at colleges across the country.

 

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