Wagatwe Wanjuki was sexually assaulted by another student while attending Tufts University. But instead of punishing her attacker, the school asked her to leave. Wanjuki says, “Years ago, I was sexually abused by another student on Tufts University’s campus. After finally speaking up about the injustice I endured, the school opted to not academically accommodate; they decided to expel me instead.”
Wanjuki first came forward about her assault in 2009, a year after her attack. She says she was repeatedly assaulted by a fellow student she was in a relationship with. When she tried to report him to the administration, Tufts responded by telling her that their legal counsel said they didn’t have to take action. This occurred before the U.S. Department of Education made it crystal clear that universities are obligated under Title IX to respond to reported sexual violence. HuffPost reports, “The Dean of Undergraduate Education at Tufts, who Wanjuki said happened to be her assailant’s academic adviser, told Wanjuki she would have to withdraw from the university due to academic concerns. At the time, she was less than a year from graduating.”
“It was mind-boggling that someone would think there’s anything to gain by coming forward as a survivor,” Wanjuki told The Huffington Post. Survivors face ridicule, attacks and threats, she said, and it’s “just not a pleasant experience. There’s very little privilege to gain by coming forward,” Wanjuki said. “I feel like we make ourselves even more vulnerable.”
It was Wanjuki’s experience with rape that caused her to be involved in the cause. She became an outspoken advocate for survivors of sexual assault and worked with organizations such as Students Active for Ending Rape, Know Your IX and Ed Act Now to push for reforms.
While everything about Wanjuki being kicked out of school is disgusting, what’s more appalling is Washington Post’s George Will’s article about rape victimization being a “coveted status” for women. Will claims that women lie about being assaulted because they covet the sympathy. He also claimed that college campus rape epidemics don’t actually exist. Yes, let that sink in. Will says:
“Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (‘micro-aggressions,’ often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”
Wanjuki reacted on Twitter and started the powerful hashtag #SurvivorPrivlege:
Of course many supporters stepped in and tweeted alongside Wanjuki, sharing their troubling experiences with rape and sexual assault.
Now six years after the sexual assault, Wanjuki is finally ready to graduate. She is only 11 credit hours away from earning her Bachelor’s, however, she doesn’t have the funds to cover the cost of finishing. So at the urging of her friends, Wanjuki started a GoFundMe page and is almost to her $5,000 goal to fund the completion of her college education. This is an uplifting end to Wanjuki’s excruciating 10-year journey to finish school. “My graduation date was supposed to be 2008, so I’ve been in college on and off for about a decade,” Wanjuki told HuffPo.
Wanjuki said she feels that as a woman of color and a first-generation American, getting a degree is necessary for her to be part of the middle class. The financial difficulties she’s faced are indicative of the struggle women often encounter when they go public as sexual assault survivors. We’ve got to do better as a society when opening up a conversation around rape and surviving it.
What do you think of Wanjuki’s story?
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