Supporting survivors of sexual and domestic violence on college campuses
Bethlehem, Pa., November 18, 2014—The Moravian College campus community is taking collective action to support survivors of sexual and domestic violence on college campuses. The Moravian College AAUW Student Affiliates are sponsoring Carry the Weight Together Day on November 19. This national day of action is inspired by the activism and art of Emma Sulkowicz at Columbia University.
"Students, staff, and faculty will take turns carrying a mattress on campus that day as a tangible way to show their support for survivors and for ending sexual violence and rape culture," said Stacey B. Zaremba, professor of psychology at Moravian College. “We aim to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual and domestic violence, advocate for better campus policies, and challenge rape culture.”
Emma Sulkowicz is a senior at Columbia University who reported a male student for raping her to the college administration in April 2013. After a protracted, demeaning, and grossly mishandled process which concluded in the university finding the male student she reported for rape "not responsible," Emma began a endurance performance art piece titled Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight.
The project involves carrying a standard issue dorm mattress with her everywhere that she goes on campus as a symbol of the weight she carries as a rape survivor. She will continue to carry the mattress for as long as she and her rapist both attend Columbia. She chose a dorm mattress to carry because her dorm room on campus was the site of her assault. It is her performance piece that has served as the inspiration for similar actions at universities across the country and for the Day of Action.
Central to the importance of Emma's art is the collaborative and supportive nature of the project. Carrying a mattress with others brings us together to collectively help carry the weight, shows our continued support for survivors, and our collective commitment to working together toward cultural and community-level change to end sexual and domestic violence.
"We are including a pillow as an object to carry so as to enable those who are unable to carry a mattress with them for physical or other reasons to have an accessible option to show their support for survivors on the 19th," Professor Zaremba explained, “Too often survivors of sexual and domestic violence struggle with feelings of isolation, invisibility, and stigmatization. By carrying a mattress or pillow around for a day, you will be showing visible support for survivors in your community and helping to challenge a culture that silences survivors and hides the issue of sexual and domestic violence.” Ending sexual violence in college communities will take work on many fronts—survivor support, administrative and legislative progress, community and cultural change—and your involvement on the national day will help strengthen and continue these efforts.”
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls. Since our founding in 1881, AAUW members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political.