An incredibly brave young woman at Columbia University is making a bold declaration against her rapist, her school and anyone who stands in the way of justice for herself and women across the nation.
Emma Sulkowicz faced what, unfortunately, many female students fear today: she was raped in her dorm room on her first day of her sophomore year of college, and as if that weren’t appalling enough, her school’s administration failed to seek rightful retribution. Sulkowicz is, according to NYMag, “one of 23 students who are a part of a federal Title IX complaint filed against Columbia for mishandling sexual-assault cases.”
It is now two years later, and Sulkowicz is still dealing with the negative effects of her attack while her rapist continues to reside on the same campus. He has even sought permission to use the school’s dark room during her photography classes, an obvious ploy of intimidation and harassment. While her school continues to try and sweep the assault under the rug, this resilient woman refuses to let her message or her fight for justice disappear.
Sulkowicz is currently a visual arts major, and has conceived a senior thesis rooted in performance art to protest her attacker’s continued looming presence at her school. Called Mattress Performance or Carry That Weight, she will carry a twin dorm mattress to every class and appointment she has for the rest of the school year, or as long as her rapist is still in attendance.
I hope that women everywhere will grow inspired by Sulkowicz’s not-so-subtle message to her school and the man who raped her that she will not go quietly, and that she and every victim of sexual assault deserves (and will continue to demand) recognition and legal action. While it is unfortunate that it might take a woman hauling around a piece of furniture on her back to make a statement loud enough for officials to hear, I am grateful that there are still ladies like Emma who are strong enough to bear the weight.
Check out this video about Sulkowicz’s project and read the original New York Times article about her story here.