For victims of rape, they have to carry the burden of that horrendous crime for the rest of their life. But for Columbia senior Emma Sulkowicz, she is not only emotionally carrying that burden, but physically as well. And she will do it until the man who she has accused of raping her is no longer on campus.
"I was raped by a fellow classmate the first day of my sophomore year. I didn't report it at first because I didn't feel like dealing with the emotional trauma," she writes on Time.com. "But then I met two other women who told me the same person who had assaulted me assaulted them, and I decided I had to do something. We all reported our cases, and all three were dismissed."
Since that moment two years ago, Emma says she's been constantly haunted and traumatized over the fact that her alleged attacker is still attending the same school as her. And until something is done about it, the visual arts major will carry her dorm-room mattress everywhere she goes.
"Every day, I am afraid to leave my room. Even seeing people who look remotely like my rapist scares me. Last semester I was working in the dark room in the photography department. Though my rapist wasn't in my class, he asked permission from his teacher to come and work in the dark room during my class time," she recounts. "I started crying and hyperventilating. As long as he's on campus with me, he can continue to harass me."
Emma is one of 23 students who have filed federal Title IX complaints against Columbia for their mishandling of sexual-assault cases. In her Time.com article, she details the backwards and confusing way the administration reviewed her case. For example, she wasn't allowed to write her own statements. The school took the statement from an investigator, who Emma says took flawed notes of her testimony. And the two other girls who were accusing the same student of raping them were not allowed to testify together with Emma.
You can hear more about Emma's "Carry That Weight" campaign in the above video, produced by the Columbia Spectator.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, call the 24-hour National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)