Columbia Student Carries her Mattress around Campus for Rape Awareness


“On the first day of her sophomore year of college, Emma Sulkowicz was raped in her dorm room bed. The Columbia University senior says the perpetrator was a fellow student. He still is — and has been since he allegedly assaulted Sulkowicz and two other female students. As Sulkowicz reported in Time earlier this year, all three cases against her offender were dismissed. So, she’s not taking it anymore.

After joining a federal complaint in April over Columbia’s mishandling of rape cases and speaking out about the school’s failure to address her assault, Sulkowicz is now embarking on yet another effort — an artistic one — to make change on campus. For her senior thesis project, the visual arts major will perform what she is calling “an endurance art piece,” in which she will carry around a standard twin-size dorm room mattress with her everywhere she goes, until her rapist is removed from school.”

          It’s so tiring hearing about rape in the news and how much energy and time women devote to trying to keep from getting raped (ie… I’m thinking of the new anti-rape nail polish that once put in your drink is supposed to change colors if a roofie is present) to getting raped to what we do after being raped (ie… the above scenario in where a Colombia University student will drag a mattress around with her on campus to her classes.) It’s not easy by any means being female in this society.

          The question that arises in my mind is what we could be doing for ourselves instead if the prospect and burden of rape were lifted. Just like I ask myself what young black males could be doing for themselves if the prospect and burden of police brutality was lifted. If that stress wasn’t present. If we just went about our day. And night. Not worrying about lurking possibilities.

          Maybe we could concentrate better. Maybe we could laugh more. Maybe we could, who knows, feel a whole lot less stress and our happiness quotient would rise. Maybe we could trust people, not be in a world where violence was a given threat against us.

          I know how hard it is for me just to carry my purse and a bag of groceries around. Add to that a single dorm mattress and I think I’d get tired pretty quickly. I know the point of this exercise is to engage others to help you by offering to carry the mattress for you, to help you with your burden, to symbolically help you with the load, but how nice it would be to go to your first day of the semester and be thinking about your courses, and if something dire had happened to you, to be able to trust the university to take you seriously and be there to protect you and other women. Not to have to dream up some way to get their attention and to make your point.


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