As Wagatwe Wanjuki filmed her Tufts sweatshirt burning, she sent a message to her alma mater: just say sorry. The 29-year-old rape survivor came forward in 2009 when she said Tufts University mishandled a series of sexual assaults she tried to report to the school. In the wake of her alleged assault, Wanjuki's grades slipped and she was eventually forced out of school.
In April of 2014, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights ended up investigating Tufts' sexual misconduct policies for an unrelated incident, and found that they were in violation of Title IX. Since then, Wanjuki has been asking that the college to apologize but is yet to receive the response she is hoping for.
Wanjuki insists that if a college like Tufts acknowledged its failures, it would change the culture, reinstitute trust and create better communities.
"Everyone knows that campus sexual assault is a problem but college presidents don't want to admit that its a problem on their campus," Wanjuki said in her Facebook video. "Clearly, if so many people have been standing up and writing complaints and urging for change, they've done something wrong in the past. All you literally have to say is sorry."
In the past year, how colleges handle instances of sexual assault (and how they should handle them) has become an ever more prominent part of our national conversation. Wanjuki's video was quickly noticed by another prominent and outspoken sexual assault survivor, Kamilah Willingham. In an article she wrote for The Establishment, Willingham praised Wanjuki and followed up with her own Facebook post burning gear she had from Harvard.
"Every week we'll be burning items that represent institutional betrayal and demanding apologies for us — and all survivors — who've been let down by their schools," Willingham wrote. "As a part of our launch, Wagatwe burned her Tufts sweatshirt. Today, I burn my Harvard sweatpants."
"SERC's goal aims to create a world free of sexual violence," Wanjuki wrote in an email to A Plus. "#JustSaySorry fits into the goal because it asks both institutions to take an action that will actually make campuses safer. A public apology helps schools increase trust in them by survivors and allies."
Since their posts, others have joined in on social media with the hashtag #JustSaySorry
While the support for the #JustSaySorry campaign is certainly appreciated by Willingham, she emphasized to A Plus that experiencing sexual assault is different for everyone.
"There is no single right way to heal," Willingham wrote. "There are many ways to be strong. Even if you're not as public as we are, even if you never told anyone about the abuse, know that you are not alone, you are strong because you're still here, and you are worthy and capable of healing."