A student at Columbia University is doing everything in her power to keep herself from becoming a powerless victim of a sexual crime. Emma Sulkowicz, 21, has turned a horrific sexual attack that she says took place on the first day of her sophomore year at the Ivy League institution into a sort-of performance art -- one that she hopes will make a big impact. The senior has been carrying a mattress EVERYWHERE she goes and says she will continue to do so until the university takes her alleged rape seriously and boots the suspect out of school.
Sulkowicz, who is majoring in visual arts, says she was raped in her dorm room by a classmate. For two years, she says, she has been trying to convince everyone from college administrators to police and friends that she was raped -- but that the situation has been largely ignored because the incident took place in her room.
The student says she lives in fear of her alleged rapist and that he has continued to harass her on occasion -- most notably last semester when she was working in the photography department's dark room and he reportedly asked his professor for permission to work with her. She says the incident made her cry and hyperventilate and that "even seeing people who look remotely" like her rapist scares her.
With no one taking her complaint seriously, Sulkowicz decided to take things into her own hands and protest the way the college was handling things by carrying around a twin-size dorm mattress to classes, appointments -- basically, everywhere. She says her dorm room has become "fraught" for her and has made a video about her horrific experience called Mattress Performance or Carry That Weight.
She is also one of 23 students who has filed a federal complaint against Columbia for allegedly not handling sexual-assault cases properly.
This young girl is setting a good example for others who feel powerless after becoming victims of sexual attacks. She continues to hold her head up high and refuses to allow anyone to brush off what she says happened to her. If carrying a mattress is the one way she can make others aware of what has happened to her, then more power to her.
Here's the video Sulkowicz created:
Do you think this student's act of protest is effective?
Image via US CPSC/Flickr