This fall, Columbia University senior, Emma Sulkowicz, has taken a stand against sexual assault in one of the most creative ways that I’ve ever seen. Emma Sulkowicz is a visual art major and has used her senior thesis to bring awareness of the lack of justice served by Columbia University after she was attacked. Her attacker, who has been known to be a repeat offender, was still permitted by Columbia to attend classes. In response, Emma began to carry a mattress with her to all of her classes and any time she is on campus to symbolize the emotional weight of her attack and knowing that her attacker is still on campus. She never asks for help, but welcomes voluntary help that friends or even strangers may give. What started as her senior thesis has caught the attention of colleges across the country.
On October 29th, many universities across the U.S., including Clark University, participated in the Carry the Weight Together movement. Students carried mattresses and pillows in solidarity with rape survivors. This powerful symbol of the physical weight of the mattress is nothing compared to the deeply intense emotional weight felt by survivors.
The lack of justice on the part of universities like this case at Columbia is all too common. Unfortunately, instances of rape are also all too prevalent. According to the Department of Justice, 20-25% of women will be raped or experience attempted rape during their college career. That is a huge number and that number is likely to be an underestimation of the true number, considering many rape survivors do not report their attacks. We need to continue to increase awareness of attacks like this and demand a better system for dealing with them.