College Students “Carry the Weight Together” Raising Awareness for Sexual Assaults on Campus

Wednesday many college students around the world made a major statement to raise awareness for the growing epidemic of sexual assaults that sweeping through college campuses. Students also brought out mattresses to show support for rape survivor and Columbia University student, Emma Sulkowicz, who has first-hand experience with the how survivors and their cases are handled.

It was just last month that Emma carried her own mattress around campus as a part of her thesis project, “Carry That Weight”. She vowed to do so until her rapist is removed from the university or chooses to leave, which is a tragic example of the ineffectively rape cases are being handled.

Students and activist joined forces in response to what Emma has endured and to fight beside other survivors of sexual violence. The group, Carrying the Weight Together was formed and worked together to organize a National Day of Action. The response far surpassed anything that the group could have hoped for.

Students from over 125 college campuses across the globe pledged to drag mattresses out in a show of solidarity for all survivors. Participants are said to have com from Central European University, Stanford University and of course Columbia University, but the list is even longer still. The Facebook event that was created to draw attention to the National Day of Action saw over 10,000 people marked in attendance of Wednesday’s event as well. Twitter and Facebook posts of the protest dominated social media yesterday with pictures of students showing solidarity that speak louder than some words ever could.

Speaking out about the growing number of sexual assaults on college campuses were Columbia University’s president, Lee Bollinger and law professor and special adviser, Suzanne B. Goldberg. The pair wrote in The New Republic, “No person who comes to a university or college to learn and live should have to endure gender-based misconduct today, particularly the young women who most frequently sustain these violations and already are saddled with gender-based burdens in their lives and interactions.”

Bollinger and Goldberg acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to be done and the most recent data pulled from just last month confirms this as it shows that there wasn’t a single student punished for any of the 10 sexual assaults reported last year.

The release of this new data pushed officials at Columbia University to release a statement on Wednesday. The statement reads:

“We understand that reports about these cases in the media can be deeply distressing, and our hearts go out to any students who feel they have been mistreated. Columbia embraces it’s responsibility to be a leader in preventing sexual assault and other gender-based misconduct anywhere it may occur, with a special duty to protect the safety and well being of our own student. Student activism here and around the nation has played an important role in encouraging these efforts.”

For survivors of sexual assault at Columbia University, this statement is a day late and a dollar short, especially for those that reported crimes just last month. Many college campuses are making changes to reduce the incidents on sexual violence on campus, but the progress is slow going and there is still a lot of work to be done. This is demonstrated clearly in each new bit of data that is released.

It’s important to remember that acts of sexual violence are common and the report rates are disastrously low due in large part to poor procedures by school officials and lack of survivor support. With that in mind, we ask you to #carrythatweight with us to show your support and incite change.

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