Wagatwe Wanjuki, 27, created the hashtag #survivorprivilege to tell her story about being a victim of sexual assault. The hashtag came out of a response to a Washington Post column written by George Will that suggested there was no campus rape epidemic and that women were lying about being victims of sexual violence.
Wanjuki’s hashtag #SurvivorPrivilege went on to trend widely among people sharing their experiences as survivors of sexual violence. Their voices became part of awidespread backlash against The Washington Post for publishing Will’s column.
“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.”
Wanjuki first became public as a survivor in 2009, when she was a student at Tufts University in Massachusetts. Wanjuki says she was assaulted multiple times by a fellow Tufts student she was in a relationship with, but when she tried in 2008 to report him for a campus adjudication, the university told her their legal counsel said they didn’t have to take action. This was back before the U.S. Department of Education made it crystal clear in a 2011 Dear Colleague letter that universities had an obligation under Title IX to respond to reported sexual violence.
Wanjuki became vocal about how she believed Tufts mishandled her case and denied her the assistance she was entitled to under the law. She worked with the national group Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) to hold campus demonstrations calling for reforms.
Around the same time, her grades began slipping, though not enough to land her on academic probation. Wanjuki attributes this to the trauma of sexual abuse and a lack of support from the school administration. In summer 2009, 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.
“My confidence was shot,” Wanjuki said. “Tufts was saying I was too stupid to stay there. A big part of my identity was that I was always a good student.”
Wanjuki eventually had to attend a junior college after leaving Tufts, and is now completing a degree at Rutgers. Now she’s 11 credits shy of her Rutgers degree, but doesn’t have the money to cover her tuition. On top of paying for Rutgers, she’s still paying off Tufts loans. She has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money she needs.
“Even if I reach half my goal, it would be a huge help,” Wanjuki said. “My graduation date was supposed to be 2008, so I’ve been in college on and off for about a decade.”