Last week, students at universities across the country stood in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault on a day of action for a movement called Carrying That Weight Together.
The day of action encouraged students to make their support for survivors visible by carrying mattresses and pillows around campus throughout the day, acting as a reminder that survivors of sexual assault can never release the burden of the pain, shame, fear, and countless other emotions survivors carry.
This powerful project was inspired by a student at Columbia University named Emma Sulkowicz. As a survivor of rape, she bravely turned to her campus administration for justice, but she was met with disbelief and rejection –a common reaction to survivors on college campuses.
Since then, she has been carrying the mattress on which her sexual assault was committed around campus as a symbol of the ever present burden she bears on her shoulders as a survivor. Sulkowicz plans to carry the mattress with her until her rapist is no longer a threat to her on campus.
So, what is the point of carrying a pillow around campus for a day? Though it may seem like a small or silly gesture, it represents a piece of the weight that a sexual assault survivor is forced to carry every day. By carrying – and sharing — that burden with survivors, we show survivors that they are believed and not alone in this fight.
A surprisingly few colleges are equipped with sufficient resources to support survivors and their diverse needs. Similarly, not all university medical centers — especially Catholic-affiliated institutions — are required to provide survivors with emergency contraception that has the potential to save them from further trauma.
Don’t let colleges deny survivors their right to emergency contraception – demand your senator cosponsor the Emergency Contraception Access and Education Act!
The Carry That Weight movement stands as a protest against the inadequate response from college campuses to fight the problem of sexual assault. Survivors deserve better than judgment and stigmatization; this demonstration is an example of the small ways that we can all help carry the weight!