Protesting Rape With Her Mattress
The lowdown: Columbia University sophomore Emma Sulkowicz has taken an unusual approach to confronting her school’s failure to take action against her alleged rapist: she’s carrying around the scene of the crime (her dorm room mattress) until he is removed from campus.
The backstory: Sulkowicz is one of three Columbia students to accuse the same student of rape, and one of 23 Columbia students to file a federal Title IX complaint against the school. In light of the school’s dragging feet, she decided to combine her senior visual arts thesis with a performance art-based protest. “I was raped in my own dorm bed, and since then that space has become fraught for me,” she says. Now, she’s bringing that space into the open, commingling physical and emotional weight as she moves around campus.
Looking forward: Even the federal government has acknowledged the dire situation on college campuses in terms of sexual assault. Columbia’s reaction to the accusations of its students may serve as a model for other universities under similar fire. Pay attention to this case – and, while you’re at it, talk to a college-age woman in your life about the reality of sexual assault on campus. If you’re looking for resources, you can start here.