New York Student Carrying Mattress Around Campus In Protest Of Rape

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A Columbia University student has committed to carrying her mattress around campus in an effort to protest the fact her rapist is still attending the school.

Emma Sulkowicz was raped by a fellow student in her own dorm room two years ago, and says that ever since, she's lived in fear it will happen again because police and campus security have ignored her claims.

"Every day, I am afraid to leave my room," Sulkowicz wrote in TIME in May. "Even seeing people who look remotely like my rapist scares me. Last semester I was working in the dark room in the photography department. Though my rapist wasn't in my class, he asked permission from his teacher to come and work in the dark room during my class time. I started crying and hyperventilating. As long as he's on campus with me, he can continue to harass me."

Sulkowicz has since turned the ordeal into a thesis for her senior art project, which she's aptly titled, 'Mattress Performance: Carrying that weight'. She has committed to carrying around a twin-size dorm mattress everywhere she goes on campus, to classes and appointments, "for as long as I attend the same school as my rapist."

"I could have taken my pillow, but I want people to see how it weighs down a person to be ignored by the school administration and harassed by police," she told The Guardian.

Unfortunately, Sulkowicz's case isn't out of the ordinary: the US Department of Justice estimates that one in five female students will be the victim of a sexual assault, and she's one of three students who reported the same student had sexually harassed them.

Even more disturbingly, she's just one of two dozen students who have lodged a federal complaint against Columbia University over its handling of sexual abuse allegations.

In an effort to curb the attacks, last week California introduced the "Yes means yes" law, which requires colleges and universities to evaluate disciplinary charges of sexual assault under an "affirmative consent", which is defined as "conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity".

However, says TIME magazine, the law is unlikely to deter predators or protect victims.

"Instead, its effect will be to shift the burden of proof to (usually male) students accused of sexual offenses, and to create a disturbing precedent for government regulation of consensual sex," said the magazine.

So while it seems an effort is finally being taken to curb the spate of sexual violence rife across US universities, there's still a long way to go.

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