WOMEN

After Brock Turner Case, This Woman Wants To Tell The World What It Costs To Survive Sexual Assault

Beyond the emotional toll, the financial bill for being raped can be staggering.

Wagatwe Wanjuki, a writer and activist, is raising funds to spread the stories of the costs of sexual assault for survivors. 

"It’s time to talk about -- and highlight -- the price that survivors pay simply by having the misfortune of being in the presence of a rapist who decided to strike," Wanjuki writes on her Kickstarter page for the project, called #SurvivorPrivilege. The effort takes its name from a hashtag she created two years ago in response to an op-ed by columnist George Will that was widely seen as mocking sexual assault survivors.

Wanjuki, who went public in 2009 with her report of being sexually assaulted at Tufts University, is launching the project now because of the outcry that followed former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner's six-month sentence last month for sexually assaulting a woman student outside a fraternity house. Turner's father argued for leniency, saying prison was "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life." 

The light sentence, the father's words, and a powerful letter written by Turner's victim prompted widespread outrage. Judge Aaron Persky, who sentenced Turner, talked about the "adverse collateral consequences" of the punishment on Turner's life, and said the "degree of monetary loss to the victim is not really applicable" in the case.

Wanjuki is collecting stories that contradict that statement. She plans to enlist at least 20 survivors to write about the price they paid after being assaulted -- literally and emotionally.  

"I want to create a collection of stories to shift the focus from the 'lost' future of assailants to the present and future price survivors pay for being the victims of a heinous act," Wanjuki explained. "These collection of firsthand stories will highlight the reality of being assaulted; the price paid comes in many forms -- financial, social, emotional, physical, mental, and the list goes on."

Research has shown victims can expect to pay from $15,000 to $108,447 in personal costs for a sexual assault, depending on where they live. 

So far, Wanjuki has raised $2,215 toward her $20,000 goal. The money will go toward printing and shipping costs, web hosting, legal costs and paying editors and contributors.

"I believe that survivors should be compensated for the labor (emotional and otherwise) of sharing their stories," she wrote. 

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Tyler Kingkade is a national reporter focusing on sexual violence and higher education. You can reach him at tyler.kingkade@huffingtonpost.com, or find him on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.

 

 

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