Target: Emma Sulkowicz
Goal: Support rape survivor who is protesting her university’s mishandling of her case by carrying around the mattress she was raped on
Emma Sulkowicz was raped in her dorm bed at Columbia University on the first day of her sophomore year. Sulkowicz did not report the rape until she spoke with two other women who alleged they had been assaulted by the same perpetrator. The three women reported the assaults, but did not find justice and the alleged perpetrator was not found guilty. Frustrated with the results and upset by the school administration’s handling of the cases, Sulkowicz joined a Title IX complaint in April 2014 with 23 other students over mishandled sexual assault cases.
Sulkowicz did not stop there. For her senior thesis as a visual art major, the survivor will carry her dorm room bed—the site of her assault—to every class at Columbia until her assailant is expelled. While the project leans more towards the artistic and less in protest of the university’s mismanagement, it speaks volumes about the weight of being a survivor facing the thought of seeing her rapist every day. If every student survivor of sexual assault forced to remain at the same school as her rapist was to drag her mattress around campus, would schools take a different approach to how they dealt with sexual assault cases?
According to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, during their academic career, one in four college women will be sexually assaulted. A rape occurs on an American college campus every 21 hours, and is the single most common violent act on American campuses. According to a Washington Post analysis, there were 56 reports of forcible sexual offenses at Penn State University in 2012, 34 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and 31 at Harvard. Sadly, these numbers only represent reported assaults; untold scores of college students have lived the same nightmare in silence. Perhaps if universities ensured greater protection for students or punishment for perpetrators, reports would be more accurate.
Sign this petition in support of Emma Sulkowicz and her performance piece, which speaks to survivors of sexual assault and forces people to take a closer look at how these cases are handled.
Dear Ms. Sulkowicz,
College rape is an American epidemic. One in four college women will be sexually assaulted on her path to a higher education. The stage is set for universities across the nation to take a stance on sexual assault and, according to 24 students who filed a complaint against the school, Columbia University is failing its students.
Your endurance piece “Mattress Performance” or “Carry that Weight” speaks to your individual strength as a survivor and brings to light the nation’s need for our college campuses to become safer places for students.
I applaud your strength and support you in your efforts to remove your assailant from Columbia University.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: User:ACupOfCoffee via Wikimedia Commons