Rape: Mattress Message

It would be strange to see a woman walking around campus dragging a mattress. It’s arguably an interesting sight to see in any setting. Mattresses belong in one place: the bedroom.

If you venture to Columbia University’s campus, however, you might spot Emma Sulkowicz, a student who is defying a social norm. Everywhere she goes, her mattress follows.

Sulkowicz, to the surprise of many, is dragging the mattress around of her own free will. She is attempting to make a sobering statement about the various facets of injustice in on-campus sexual assault cases.

Sulkowicz was raped in her own bed by a fellow Columbia University student. The administration and faculty at Columbia University were ineffective in properly responding to her case, and Sulkowicz felt that something needed to be done.

It is not uncommon to hear a story about another college campus assault case. The word “rape” has almost become desensitized. Yet, in stark contrast to the commonality of the issue is the absolute lack of change that it has inspired.

People love to talk about it, of course. Sulkowicz’s story will be shared on Facebook and Twitter and across any other appropriate medium of communication for many more weeks to come. She has gained a lot of attention in the past few weeks. Major newspapers have covered her story, depicting her as the brave heroine who is standing up to her attacker.

But people will forget, as they always do. Eventually, Sulkowicz’s story will become just another statistic, and her uniqueness will wear off. Once it does, we will again be faced with the challenge of rekindling another call to change.

As a  college student, as a feminist, as a human, it’s a depressing trend to acknowledge. So we cannot forget. We cannot forget Emma Sulkowicz, or the facts of her case, or the injustices that her University afforded her.

According to journalist Jessica Valenti, in her article “Beyond ‘no means no’: the future of campus rape prevention is ‘yes means yes”.Sulkowicz filed a police report and brought her case to a Columbia panel that was “so uneducated about the scourge of campus violence.”

I was further concerned after reading  last week’s article by Casey Wolfe, MU Responds to National Focus on Sexual Assault. According to the article, “only three cases of sexual assault were recorded at the university” in 2013.

It is statistically unreasonable that this low number is because of the rarity of sexual assault on Monmouth University’s campus. Instead, it is because the victims of sexual assault are not coming forward.

This can be attributed to a variety of factors.  Maybe they are ashamed, humiliated, or frightened that their attacker will not meet necessary justice.

Most importantly, we cannot point fingers or shift blame. Instead, it is detrimental that Monmouth University administration, faculty, and students, stand as a united front when it comes to addressing sexual assault with the strictness it deserves.

There are small ways to help. Educating yourself on campus policies is one way. Familiarizing yourself with the MUPD phone number is another. If you see something, say something. It is simple to act as a catalyst for change when it comes to stopping another person from becoming a victim of assault.

As for cases like Emma Sulkowicz’s, I can only hope that her attacker is brought to justice and she can return to feeling safe on her campus. After having such basic human rights violated, she deserves to go about her life without fear.

And as for Monmouth University, there is still room for change. I hope that when a student comes forward, his or her needs are met with the necessary resources.