Sexual assault survivor inspires University movement

Cooper Josephs, Assistant News Editor

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As the Obama Administration geared up for its new “It’s On Us” campaign, University students launched a movement to raise awareness for sexual assault and generate campus discussion. Over 200 people participated in Pillows for Emma on Sept. 17. Members walked with a pillow throughout the day in support of Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University senior who was raped on her mattress the first day of her sophomore year.

“Not only will this support [Sulkowicz], but it will also support … survivors of rape and sexual assault,” the event’s Facebook description said.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced similar intentions on Sept. 19; “It’s On Us” is combating the growing problem of sexual assault on college campuses.

“We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should,” Obama said.

As part of her art thesis, Sulkowicz has been carrying a 50-pound mattress everywhere she goes on campus. The mattress symbolizes the weight she bears from her sexual assault.

“Pillows for Emma has sparked campus curiosity,” Lindsey Ruff ’16 said. “The event has prompted a lot of discussion surrounding the issue of sexual assault.”

Some members see Pillows for Emma as a movement, not just an event.

“I think I’m going to carry my pillow around until [Sulkowicz’s] rapist is removed from campus,” Melissa Rios ’16 said on the Facebook page. 

While many students at other colleges are well aware of Sulkowicz’s dilemma, Darriana Howard ’17 started the Pillows for Emma movement at the University.

“This problem is pertinent to us all; we all have a role to play in the elimination of sexual violence,” Ruff said.

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