On Wednesday October 29th, schools and organizations across the country rallied to end sexual assault on college campuses through the #CarryThatWeight campaign. This campaign was sparked by a senior at Columbia University, Emma Sulkowicz, a visual arts major, who is carrying her mattress through campus as part of her senior thesis project until her rapist is expelled from the school. Sulkowicz was raped as a sophomore and still has not received justice, just like hundreds of other students across the United States of America.
Columbia students took to the streets Wednesday, carrying 28 mattresses to their school’s President Lee Bollinger’s home. Each mattress signified the number of complaints filed against Columbia for its poor enforcement of Title IX. They were stacked up in front of the president’s home on Morningside Drive along with a list of demands. The event stopped traffic in New York City and gained support nationwide as other schools such as Vassar College, Georgetown University, Cornell University, NYU, MIT and UNC-Chapel Hill hosted #CarryThatWeight events on their campuses.
With the egregious offenses being piled up by schools mishandling sexual assault cases, this is not the only campaign currently being pushed.
“It’s On Us,” a nationwide campaign to end sexual assault on college campuses in the US was launched in September by President Barack Obama. According to The White House’s website, “It’s On Us” asks men and women across the country to make a personal commitment to combat the ever-present threat of sexual assault that is plaguing our universities.
According to the President, “It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable.”
Schools participating in this initiative include St. John’s University in New York, Northwestern University in Illinois, The University of Maryland at College Park, and Texas A&M University along with many others.
In September, California’s state Senate unanimously approved a bill changing the way that sexual assault is investigated on college campuses in the state.
According to USA Today, “the definition of consent under the bill requires ‘an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision’ by each party to engage in sexual activity.”
The state university system in New York (SUNY) has also adopted this legislation recently under Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Besides these three campaigns, schools around the nation are working to combat sexual assault on their campuses by creating groups such as The Aurora Center at The University of Minnesota, or The University of Michigan’s “SAPAC” – Sexual Assault Prevention Awareness Center. Down South, The University of Florida offers their students access to a peer education group called “STRIVE” or Sexual Trauma/Interpersonal Violence Education. At The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, students have the CARE (Campus Advocacy Resource and Empowerment) line, dedicated to helping victims of assault, violence and stalking.
According to the US Department of Justice, less than five percent of attempted and completed rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement. This does not come as a surprise as only one-third of schools are compliant with The Clery Act. Institutions of higher education across the country are sending a message that they are mishandling cases of sexual assault within their own walls.
Emma Sulkowicz made a powerful speech directed at Columbia University’s President on Wednesday which she ended in a way that I believe speaks for college students nationwide, “All of us have our eyes on you. Do something. We are waiting.”
In the fight to end sexual assault on campuses you do not have to be a victim or a student to help; you can be an educator, a parent, a grandparent, a brother – anyone and everyone can help in the fight to end sexual assault.
How will you #CarryThatWeight? Comment below.