We live in the United States of America in the 21st century – when our laws and our rhetoric are moving towards civil rights for all. That movement is not yet complete, and we know that the right to live free of rape and sexual assault is still not consistently embraced by our culture or our laws. We believe that we must be a people who reject rape in any form and who value sexual autonomy and freedom from fear of sexual violence in every circumstance. Sexual autonomy is the recognition that sexual intimacy must always be preceded by affirmative, freely given permission of all parties. We are committed to justice for every person.

To protect all people adequately, we must revolutionize how we understand and value sexual autonomy. Deciding whether and with whom one shares physical intimacy is a primary right. Coercing sex acts from a person violates the fundamental human need and the right to bodily integrity. Violations of free choice in the realm of sexual intimacy carry grave and often lifelong consequences for victims, as well as for families and communities.

Our intention is to do nothing less than change both the laws and the culture. We are writers, lawyers, advocates, educators, and activists. We are mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers. On this day, we declare that we will work to change the hearts and minds of the people, and the laws of the United States, so that we can live in a world in which the following basic truths are recognized:

  1. The freedom to decide whether, when, where, how, and with whom to have sexual intimacy is a civil right that should be upheld in our nation’s laws and culture.
  2. Violations of sexual autonomy – by force, threat of force, fraud, intoxication, exploitation, or any type of coercion – should be condemned by both public opinion and our laws.
  3. Full responsibility for the violation is that of the rapist, not the victim.
  4. Our laws exist to help make whole victims of rape and sexual assault. We must ensure victims’ rights in education, employment, housing, immigration, medical, privacy and other arenas of their lives.

We, the undersigned, are committed to a three-fold strategy:

  1. We will engage new allies to reach out to victims and advocates from every community to ensure that our work is inclusive, and that its efforts reach all victims of sexual violence.
  2. In a world in which the media are ever-changing, we will identify new ways and places to talk about rape and sexual violence.
  3. We will work to enforce current laws, to pass new laws, and to implement all these laws, so that sexual autonomy and freedom from fear is recognized as a civil right for all.

Founding Signers 

Joanne Archambault
Executive Director, End Violence Against Women International
Houston Baker, Ph.D.
Distinguished University Professor, Professor of English, Vanderbilt University
Helen Benedict
Professor of Journalism, Columbia University. Author.
Sarah Buel
Clinical Professor, University of Texas School of Law. Co-Director, Domestic Violence Clinic.
Steve Bush
Treasurer and Director, End Violence Against Women International
Karen D. Carroll, SANE-A
Associate Director, Bronx SART
Sarah Deer
Visiting Professor, William Mitchell College of Law. Citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
Rachel Durchslag
Founder and Director, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Susan Estrich
Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science, USC Gould School of Law. Author.
Katie Feifer
Research Director, The Voices and Faces Project
Rev. Marie Fortune
Founder and Senior Analyst, FaithTrust Institute. Author.
Jaclyn Friedman
Program Director, Center for New Words. Writer, performer, activist.
Samir Goswami
Director of Policy and Outreach, Justice Project Against Sexual Harm
Monika Johnson Hostler
Executive Director, North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Katie Hnida
Colorado Cobras football team. Author.
Lynne Johnson
Director of Advocacy, Chicago Foundation for Women
TK Logan, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky. Author.
Jessica Mindlin
National Director of Training and Technical Assistance, Victim Rights Law Center
Diane Moyer
Legal Director, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
Georgia Murray
Board of Directors, Victim Rights Law Center
Leslye Orloff
Director, Immigrant Women Program, Legal Momentum
Charlotte Pierce-Baker, Ph.D.
Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and English, Vanderbilt University. Author.
Mónica Ramirez
Founder of Esperanza, The Immigrant Women's Legal Initiative, Southern Poverty Law Center
Jody Raphael
Senior Research Fellow, Family Law Center at the DePaul College of Law. Author.
Anne Ream
Founder, The Voices and Faces Project. Writer.
Ilene Seidman
Clinical Professor of Law, Suffolk University Law School. Director of Family Advocacy Clinic.
Gail Burns Smith
Former Executive Director, Connecticut Sexual Assault Services. Co-founder, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
 R. Clifton Spargo, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English, Marquette University. Author, literary critic.
Gail Stern
Director of Consulting, Education and Training, Catharsis Productions. Co-author and co-producer of "Sex Signals."
Susan Vickers
Founder and former Executive Director, Victim Rights Law Center
Lydia Watts
Executive Director, Victim Rights Law Center


Leadership Signers 

Karen Baker
Director, Sexual Violence Resource Center
Tina Chanter, Ph.D
Professor of Philosophy, DePaul University
Harriet Chessman
Author, feminist scholar
Emilee I. Coulter-Thompson, MSW
Barbara Engel
Jennifer C. Escalante
Sexual Assault Justice Project Staff Attorney, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation
Torrie Flink
Executive Director, Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center
Stephen Glaude
Executive Director, Men Can Stop Rape
Kellie Greene
Founder/Director, Speaking Out About Rape, Inc. (SOAR)
Stephanie Hanson
Trustee, William H. Donner Foundation
Christine Herrman
Executive Director, Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force, state of Oregon
Kaethe Morris Hoffer
Justice Project Against Sexual Harm. CAASE
Donna Jenson
Founder, Time to Tell; author and performer of "What She Knows: One Woman's Way Through Incest"
Serene Jones
President, Union Theological Seminary
Sharmili Majmudar
Executive Director, Rape Victim Advocates
Stacy Malone,Esq.
Executive Director, Victim Rights Law Center
The Honorable Hardy Myers
Attorney General of the State of Oregon
Alisa Roadcup
Amnesty International USA, Women's Human Rights Coordination Council
Angela Rose
Founder and Executive Director, PAVE - Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment
Delilah Rumburg
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape/National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Robin R. Runge, Esq.
Director, American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence
Amy Scholder
Editorial Director, Feminist Press at CUNY
Chaitra "Chai" Shenoy
Attorney and Activist.
Wendy Verhoek-Oftedahl, Ph.D
Adjunct Assitant Professor of Community Health, Brown University