Protective Mothers' Alliance International

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Columbia University Students’ Powerful Display Of Support For A Rape Victim Seeking Justice

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Emma Sulkowicz, a visual arts major at Columbia University, is carrying around her dorm mattress until her rapist is removed from campus. Sulkowicz says she was raped in her dorm room bed when she was a sophomore, and as her senior thesis project, she’s embarking on a performance arts piece that requires her to tote her mattress everywhere she goes. But she doesn’t have to do it alone.
Under the terms of Sulkowicz’s thesis — entitled Carry That Weight or Mattress Performance — she’s not allowed to ask for help carrying her mattress. She is allowed to accept help if other people offer on their own, however, and that inspired her fellow students to get organized so they can assist Sulkowicz in a meaningful way.
“Carrying The Weight Together,” a group founded by another senior at Columbia, is organizing “collective carries” to ensure that the community will work together to help bear the weight of Sulkowicz’s symbolic burden. They’re committing to helping carry the mattress every day.


According to Allie Rickard, the student who initiated Carrying The Weight Together, the goals are to “help Emma carry the weight of the physical mattress, give her and other survivors of sexual assault in our community a powerful symbol of our support and solidarity, and show the administration that we stand united in demanding better policies designed to guarantee our safety and wellbeing on campus.”
As reported by the Columbia Spectator, the first collective carry was on Wednesday afternoon, when a group of students helped Sukowicz carry her mattress across campus so she could more easily get to class. “As students, I like the fact that we can step up and share the weight with her — that she doesn’t have to do this all alone,” one of the people who participated told the student newspaper. The group is working to organize future carries with the help of Columbia and Barnard staff, faculty, and students.
Students are also rallying support with the #CarryThatWeight hashtag, which has inspired additional actions of solidarity with Sukowicz and her project at other schools.

Sexual assault prevention activists are organizing a rally on Columbia’s campus for Friday afternoon to continue to push for meaningful policy reform in this area. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own mattresses to the event as a symbol of solidarity with Sukowicz and all survivors of sexual violence.
There are often calls to “stand with” survivors after revelations of the crimes committed against them — but more recently, there’s been a larger conversation about how to do even more to actively support victims of oppression and violence. That’s where the concept of “carrying” comes in. For instance, earlier this summer, when images of 16-year-old Jada’s rape went viral online and the teen fought to reclaim her agency, writer Stacia L. Brown argued that solidarity isn’t enough. “I am often of the mind that girls who’ve gone through what Jada has don’t need us to stand with them. They need to be swept off their feet, hoisted onto our backs or shoulders, and carried,” Brown wrote.
Carrying mattress helps evoke that more concrete action, and Columbia students aren’t stopping there. Activists have a list of specific demands — including implementing ongoing consent education, hiring a more impartial employee to oversee the adjudication process, and providing more formal channels for students to provide feedback about their experiences reporting sexual assault — they’re asking administrators to agree to. According to a press release sent to ThinkProgress, “Student organizers plan to escalate their actions if administrators continue to ignore their demands for a safer campus.”

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Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

September 13, 2014 at 1:12 am

Posted in crime, Rape

Tagged with , ,

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