Margaret Eby
October 29, 2014 1:38 pm

Today, if you see a group of students carrying a mattress, don’t be alarmed. Join them and help shoulder the burden. October 29th marks a national day of action from Carry the Weight Together, a group aimed at shutting down sexual assault on college campuses.

The mattresses are symbolic of the rampant sexual assault problem on campus, and are a show of solidarity with Columbia senior Emma Sulkowicz. Last year, she was raped in her dorm room by a fellow student. Sulkowicz made headlines when she decided to turn her pain into a kind of performance art. She vowed that for the rest of her senior year, or until her rapist is expelled, she would carry her mattress wherever she went. It’s a project that serves as Sulkowicz’ visual arts thesis, but the message was powerful enough to be heard around the country, where other women and men began to lift mattresses in her honor, and in protest of the often overlooked problem of sexual assault.

So on the day of action, students are encouraged to carry pillows or mattresses along with them in tribute to rape victims. Students from 130 colleges and high schools have signed up to participate, and photos of mattress carrying began sprouting on the group’s Facebook page and on Twitter and under the hashtag #carrythatweight. It’s incredibly moving to see pictures come in from across the country of students walking around campus literally carrying this weight together.

 

 

The public solidarity is something that’s incredible and inspiring to see, and it also points to an important issue. Some 13.7 percent of undergraduate women had been the victim of some kind of sexual assault, according to a 2007 Department of Justice study. And it remains a crime that’s both underreported and heavily stigmatized. The point of the mattresses is to bring issues that are usually tucked away in private into the daylight, so that we can all work together towards a solution. Hopefully, this incredible movement has an impact on how schools handle and prevent sexual assault in the future.

(Image via Twitter)

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