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 first came forward about her assault in 2009. In 2008, 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.
Oftentimes, the so-called “political” or “trouble-making” behavior they engage in is simply doing what Title IX laws require them to in order to keep their students safe. Every professor I spoke to described a remarkably similar pattern of behavior on the administration’s part: when faculty object to the desultory, ineffective sexual assault and rape policies offered up by universities, they’re ignored; when they persist in their criticism, they’re labeled “hysterical” or “troublemakers” who are acting out of a “personal agenda,” and they’re put under increasing pressure to keep quiet. In some cases that pressure is insidious. In others, it’s bafflingly blatant: for instance, I spoke to two women who were denied tenure after helping students report sexual harassment (which, again, is their legal responsibility under Title IX).
The crux of the issue here is that colleges see the campus rape crisis primarily as an image problem. They put their illustrious reputations before their students’ safety, and, in doing so, they actively harm survivors. Because 1 in 5 women will be raped in college, a spotless sexual assault record simply isn’t possible. When college administrations strive to make it seem as though sexual assault and harassment are wildly uncommon, what they’re really doing is demanding that sexual assault survivors stay quiet about their experiences. Plainly put, low reporting numbers don’t reflect a dearth of sexual violence. They’re indicative of the fact that survivors are afraid of coming forward. But many college administrations seem not to care about this distinction.