Emma Sulkowicz: A Theoretical Analysis

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On May 19, 2015 Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University, carried a mattress across the stage at her college graduation to protest the university’s unethical response to her rape. In 2012, Sulkowicz reported a rape, committed by a fellow classmate in her dorm room. Upon reporting, she received no support from the administration. Out of protest, Sulkowicz said that she would carry her mattress, the very mattress that she was attacked on, across campus every day, until the person she claimed attacked her was expelled. However, this did not happen and Sulkowicz’s alleged rapist was allowed to remain on campus and eventually graduate from Colombia without punishment. Sulkowicz’s act of carrying her mattress, a visual performance piece…show more content…
To many, rape took on the form of a dark, and deserted area in which an individual (most likely a woman) would be attacked by another individual (more times than not a man). This attacker would be anonymous, as their appearance would be obscured by a mask or a hat that would make them impossible to identify and unlikely to prosecute. However, this perception of rape is not the only way in which rape can occur, nor is it the most common way. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) ⅘ of reported rapes are committed by someone that the victim knew before the assault. Of this percentage, 47 percent of rapists were friends or acquaintances of the victim (RAINN). Acquaintance rape, often referred to as “date rape”, despite being the most common type of rape, is also the most criticized, doubted, and unprosecuted form, as seen on college campuses across the country. According to a study conducted by Indiana University, one in five women will have been victims of sexual assault of some degree before they graduate from college (Elizabeth, Armstrong A, et al). However, college administrations do very little to remedy this statistic. By ignoring this issue, colleges perpetuate a message that teaches that violence against women is something that is justifiable, excusable and encouraged. Consequently, it allows rape to become a cycle that allows repeat…show more content…
Koenan reports that “the rape comes at a time in the life of a woman when she’s just breaking away from her family and is starting to establish herself in the world. The rape robs her of that...and it becomes her nightmare.” Violent acts such as rape can be devastating and life altering to their victims. The ability for victims to successfully recover heavily relies on the support the victim receives after coming forward and admitting that the assault occurred. This support must come from a variety of places, in particular, the victim’s community of family, friends, educators, and law enforcement. Rebecca Campbell writes about the trust that the victim must have in their potential support systems as “they risk disbelief, scorn, shame, punishment, and refusals of help…[and it] can magnify feelings of powerlessness, shame, and guilt” (Campbell, 356). If support is minimal or not offered at all, the trust between the victim and those they reached out to is broken. This, consequently, can drastically and negatively affect the victim’s ability to move past the trauma. Without proper support from the victim’s school administration and law enforcement, the likelihood of the victim emotionally recovering decreases immensely. According to RAINN, women who have suffered from rape are statistically more susceptible to depression, post

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