Kamilah Willingham is a feminist writer, speaker, and activist dedicated to social justice and equality. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2011, she worked for the health and human rights organization Just Detention International, where she advocated for the rights of prisoner rape survivors and helped local, state, and federal authorities implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Later, while working at the California Women’s Law Center, Kamilah coordinated government and grassroots efforts to pass the Justice for Victims Act (SB813), which successfully eliminated the statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes in California.
Kamilah shared her personal experience of surviving sexual assault and civil rights violations as a student at Harvard Law in the award-winning 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground and has been fighting rape culture in the public eye ever since. She now speaks regularly at campuses, organizations, and conferences throughout the United States about gender violence, rape culture, racism, and other social justice issues.
After broadcasting their first few #JustSaySorry burnings on Facebook—including one in which Willingham set fire to the Harvard Law School acceptance letter that she had thought she would want to hold onto forever—Wanjuki and Willingham won a grant from the Awesome Foundation, an organization that gives out micro-grants, to produce a professional video for the project...
Willingham says that how men define their masculinity will inevitably shape how they talk about women...
“There’s still this misconception that there’s something to be gained by being a victim of sexual assault. … Rehashing a painful moment publicly is not fun, especially when you know that so many people who hear that story are cultured to question you.”
As Kamilah Willingham, a sexual assault survivor and SB813 advocate, told Broadly, the bill's passage gave her "renewed hope in legislative reform, and the idea that legislative reform will eventually create a justice system that is safe for survivors."
Willingham worked at the California Women's Law Center when the first draft of SB 813 was submitted to legislators. "It was pretty exciting to be a part of this process," she says, "especially because it was something that so many people thought would never happen."
"I think we're in a moment where the world is finally valuing and paying attention to the voices and experiences of survivors of sexual assault."
“This is exactly what we’re talking about when we say that university administrations model a culture of denial rather than one of accountability,” Willingham said...
“I think it’s a terrible idea for him to go on campus educating about rape and rape culture,” said Kamilah Willingham, an activist who appeared in “The Hunting Ground,” the campus rape documentary. “He still doesn’t get it. He’s trying to have it both ways.”
Harvard Law School student and sexual assault survivor Kamilah Willingham said that like Turner’s victim, she was raped while unconscious. Unlike Turner’s victim, who remained incapacitated until the next morning, she woke up in the middle of her assault.
“I reported it even though I know how low conviction and prosecution rates are,” she said. “I knew that in order to have a shot at justice, you have to prove not only what happened to you but that you weren’t asking for it. … I thought that my assailant would be held accountable. I was wrong.”
Kamilah Willingham, who reported that she was sexually assaulted while a student at Harvard Law School, called Persky part of the problem. “Because even if the police believe you, even if the prosecutors believe you, even if against all odds the jurors believe you, at the end of the day, that can all be undermined,” she said...
“Poor Brock, he has to carry the stigma of being known as a rapist,” she said sarcastically. “People like his victim and people like me have to live with that for the rest of our lives too. We live with the nightmares, we live with the flashbacks… This wasn’t a youthful mistake, it’s not an inevitability of co-ed party culture.”
Some nights, Kamilah Willingham would lie awake, unable to fall asleep until the sun came up and she felt safe again. The 30-year-old Los Angeles activist says the trauma of surviving sexual assault affected her physical and mental wellbeing, and although it’s been five years, there are still days when she struggles to get out of bed.
In recent months, however, she has made a concerted effort to be more open about her emotional scars, in large part because she was so moved by the viral impact statement of the sexual assault victim at Stanford University.
The four young women, whose campus sexual assaults were detailed in the documentary 'The Hunting Ground,' said the song will help other victims feel less "isolated or alone."
Willingham, whose story was recently chronicled in the documentary The Hunting Ground, burned her Harvard Law School admissions letter Tuesday. But first, she decided to torch a pair of Harvard sweatpants. In a piece for the feminist magazine The Establishment, she said that Wanjuki’s video made her wish she’d kept more Harvard Law school attire so she could burn it now.
Now, some potential ticket buyers have already sworn off his movie months before its October debut in theaters. “You collaborated on a rape 17 years ago, and now you pull him in to make this film together,” says Kamilah Willingham, 30, one of the campus-assault survivors featured in the documentary “The Hunting Ground.” “I’m trying to picture a way this could turn out in which the film can still be celebrated. I can’t.”
“Some want to see their rapist rot in prison and have to register as a sex offender. And some people aren’t even ready to talk about it or confront what happened to them until it’s too late to report, or ever,” Willingham said.
“I want survivors to know that that’s okay, too. There is no ‘right’ way to survive sexual assault; there’s no duty to do anything but survive as best you can,” Willingham said.
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