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Why won't Columbia respond to rape victim's protest?

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






Students pitch in to help Columbia rape victim with her protest

Help Emma carry her weight.

Columbia rape victim, freshly-minted feminist crusader and visual artist Emma Sulkowicz is getting lots of help carrying the weight of her dorm mattress around the Columbia campus.

She's getting help from just about everyone, that is, except the administrators at Columbia who sparked her painful protest, which she has turned into her senior thesis and performance art piece called "Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight." In protest she will carry the dorm room mattress where she was raped at the beginning of her sophomore year everywhere she goes until the man she and other victims have named as their rapist is either expelled from the school or leaves on his own.

Sulkowicz's bravery has been matched by cowardly silence from Columbia school officials.

But while she waits for Columbia to do the right thing, she says she's encountered all sorts of people everywhere she goes that are willing to grab a corner of that sucker and help her carry on. As part of the project, Emma can't ask for help with her hefty cargo, but can accept it when it's offered. The Columbia Daily Spectator reported that a group of students organized on Wednesday to help Sulkowicz carry her mattress across campus, The Business Insider reports.

"I think there's been a general feeling from people among both schools that there's a great sense of support for Emma and other survivors and this would be great for people to get involved on a daily basis, and just show solidarity, and give Emma and other survivors support," one student said in an interview with The Spectator.

As a visual artist, you just can't argue with the power of the images of her carrying that damn plastic mattress with the help of those around her. The images of young college women walking in this eerie square formation, defiant, helping Sulkowicz shoulder the pain of her experience is enough to move you to tears.

Rape victims so often feel fearful and disassociated following the abuse. Somehow the simple act of watching people join in to help a victim of rape carry a mattress signifies a subtle but critical shift in public consciousness about the need for people to come together and rally around the victim and hold him or her up, rather than pushing them aside or making excuses for the attack.

So let's do our part and help her carry the weight of her attack. Here's the contact information of the Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. Drop him a line and let him know what you think about Emma Sulkowicz's treatment. Let him know she deserves to be heard and protected by his institution.

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