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Carrying That Weight Beyond a Day of Action

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October 27, 2014

I am currently on Domestic Exchange at Barnard College, literally located across the street from Columbia University. Since the schools are located across the street from one another, we share the amenities, classes, and friendships. In essence, what happens on their campus is inseparable from our campus. On Wednesday, October 29, 2014, students and faculty from various college campuses will carry mattresses.  If they are unable to carry mattresses, supporters can carry pillows. Why?

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The purpose of the demonstration is to show solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in a day of action called Carry that Weight. Sexual assault according to SafeHorizon, an organization working to empower victims of crimes of abuses, “is a general term that includes: rape, incest, child molestation, marital rape, date rape, sexual harassment, sodomy, sexual abuse, voyeurism, and indecent exposure”(Safe Horizon After Sexual Assault A Recovery Guide for Survivors).

The idea of carrying the mattress stems from a Columbia University student named Emma Sulkowicz who began carrying a dorm mattress and will continue to carry  dorm mattress around campus until her rapist is no longer allowed to attend the institution.

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In analyzing the upcoming event, the question I ask myself is how do we not only support survivors of sexual assault and violence, but advocate for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. I realized that the advertisement showed two women carrying the weight. The weight of sexual assault and violence is cross-cultural and affects people of all genders and sexual orientations. As such, we all have a vested interest in not only reducing instances of sexual assault and domestic violence, but addressing social and political factors in our society.  We must emphasize equality and human agency. We must discourage acts of hatred and violence and make clear that they are inappropriate ways to deal with differences, insecurities, and the need for power or control.

The problems we face with regard to sexual assault and domestic violence as a society are entrenched and they cannot be dismantled in a single blog post or in the carrying of mattress. Even so, small actions can influence the lives of others and promote solidarity and meaningful action. I have included some small (yet big) ways in which we can Carry the Weight in our lives.

  1. When we hear someone making inappropriate and offensive remarks about a particular group (racial, sexual orientation, religious,  gender, etc.), SPEAK UP

  2. As a student, we have access to counselors and other authorities that come with the collegiate experience. Access these resources to speak your mind, report incidences of discrimination,  sexual assault, and violence.

  3. Listen actively and be observant. Although many of us communicate verbally, non-verbal communication is even more telling. Ask questions and listen to your gut. Carrying that Weight means assisting by assuming a social responsibility to ensure the well-being, safety, and protection of people in your community.

I would also like to stress that survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence are not helpless. Everyone can benefit from support, friendships, and access to resources.

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