Georgetown students will carry mattresses and pillows to classes Wednesday as part of the Carry That Weight National Day of Action, a country-wide solidarity movement with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. The event, sponsored by Take Back the Night, Sexual Assault Peer Educators and the Georgetown University Student Association, was inspired by a performance art piece by Columbia University senior Emma Sulkowicz.
Sulkowicz, a survivor of sexual assault, carries her dorm mattress with her each day on campus to protest the university’s failure to punish her rapist. Haley Maness (NHS ’15), a board member of TBTN and member of SAPE, said that Sulkowicz’s performance art holds a much deeper significance.
“Emma Sulkowicz at Columbia carries a mattress around with her because she really wants to emphasize the fact that her rape happened in her dorm and she also wants to emphasize the fact that she lives with it,” Maness said. “Living with her perpetrator on campus is very heavy, and it’s a burden that she takes on her shoulders.”
Although Sulkowicz carries a mattress and encourages those participating in the event to do the same, Maness said that the planning committee incorporated pillows into the day to demonstrate the idea that sexual assault can occur in familiar places.
“Emma has actually spoken out against [pillows]. She said that pillows were ‘light and fluffy’ and don’t represent that actual weight of what she’s feeling,” Maness said. “The pillows are Georgetown’s interpretation. We want to make it clear that we’re not trying to go against Emma’s wishes, and we really respect her and we understand why she is against pillows. In terms of the climate and the culture at Georgetown, we feel that what pillows represent is still really important to recognize.”
Per Sulkowicz’s request, students will also wear red tape ‘X’s on their clothing to represent the figurative red tape that survivors must go through to get justice. Many of those involved with the planning of Carry That Weight will table in Red Square during the Georgetown University Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, and will participate in group-carry exercises with mattresses.
Kyra Hanlon (SFS ’16), a member of the Georgetown University College Democrats who is helping plan the event, said she believes the event will foster a culture of caring and support for survivors.
“It’s really important for it to be a public event so that we can continue to engage the student body on this issue and to create that culture and a norm that people care about this issue on campus and that people are able to have a dialogue about it,” Hanlon said.“Also to make sure in a very public way that the administration knows that students really care about this issue.”
Hanlon said she got involved in order to ensure that survivors feel respected and supported.
“For me, a major goal is to show unity and to show that Georgetown is united behind survivors and that we stand in solidarity with survivors,” Hanlon said. “The ultimate goal is for survivors to feel supported on campus.”
GUSA Vice President Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) said that she hopes the event will make issues of sexual assault more visible.
“It’s important for GUSA to support it because it’s a very visual-heavy event, and it hopefully will bring a lot more awareness to this issue,” Jikaria said. “Emma was carrying her mattress around Columbia for the past month or so; that’s definitely garnering a lot of attention. We think that this is a great opportunity to stand in solidarity with her.”