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Columbia student will carry her mattress until her rapist exits school
September 2, 2014

While most students at Columbia University will spend the first day of classes carrying backpacks and books, Emma Sulkowicz will start her semester on Tuesday with a far heavier burden. The senior plans on carrying an extra-long, twin-size mattress across the quad and through each New York City building – to every class, every day – until the man she says raped her moves off campus.

“I was raped in my own bed,” Sulkowicz told me the other day, as she was gearing up to head back to school in this, the year American colleges are finally, supposedly, ready to do something about sexual assault. “I could have taken my pillow, but I want people to see how it weighs down a person to be ignored by the school administration and harassed by police.”

Sulkowicz is one of three women who made complaints to Columbia against the same fellow senior, who was found “not responsible” in all three cases. She also filed a police report, but Sulkowicz was treated abysmally – by the cops, and by a Columbia disciplinary panel so uneducated about the scourge of campus violence that one panelist asked how it was possible to be anally raped without lubrication.

So Sulkowicz joined a federal complaint in April over Columbia’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases, and she will will hoist that mattress on her shoulders as part savvy activism, part performance art. “The administration can end the piece, by expelling him,” she says, “or he can, by leaving campus.”

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As painful as I know the constant reminder of attending school with her rapist must be, I’m glad she won’t be the only one forced to remember. I hope the rapist drops out immediately…or better yet, I hope he faces the justice he deserves. 

tough as fuckin nails

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I’d like to take some time to talk about a couple things that are very close to my heart; Hanecdote and depression, When I launched the Ghoul Guide patches in June 2013 I had no ideas of the positivity they would spread across the world. They opened up a whole new platform for me to voice my beliefs in feminism and my experiences with depression and solidarity with mental health sufferers.

I’m writing this because I want to make people happy; I want to encourage people to love and be kind to themselves. I created a series of reward patches called ‘Little Victories; for that exact purpose, to give yourself a pat on the back for doing the little things which are so difficult for people who suffer with depression and anxiety. To buy for yourself as a “well done” or as a sign of support for a friend in a dark place; these patches serve multiple purposes. When I get feedback from my customers and followers my heart fills with joy knowing that I have impacted on someone’s mood as well as helping them on their own journey to happiness and self love.

I also just released a series called ‘Positivity Patches’ which is exactly what it says on the label. The aims of these patches are to spread a bit of brightness on an otherwise gloomy day whether that’s a message to yourself or those around you. I’ve suffered with depression since I was 14 and my experiences with it have deeply affected who I am and how I look at life. Depression affects so many people’s lives, not just the person suffering. It can feel like no one cares or that you’d be better off dead or like you’re a burden.

It’s a horrible lonely existence at worst and an emotionally draining burden at best. Suicide attempts, self harm and severe mood swings put my life on hold and prevented me from going to school properly. But despite that, I managed to get a BTEC Level 3 in Art and Design with only two GCSE’s and I’m now at university studying what I love. I still struggle everyday but if I can inspire and encourage someone else to keep going, I think I’ll be ok.

I like to think I am making a difference by producing these patches for people like me who need positive reinforcement. When I post my ‘Don’t Give Up’ patch on instagram and get comments like “I needed this <3” and “Thank you” all the late nights sewing have been worth it and even a small amount of sadness goes away for a while, knowing I’ve helped someone else. I hope I get to do this for a long time because it is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever achieved and it keeps me alive. Hanecdote’s prosperity and support keeps me alive and smiling even when my depression wants me curled up in bed. Thank you. 

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