emma Sulkowsci
As her guest to President Obama’s State of the Union on January 20th, Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) invited Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University student who as a performance art piece, has been carrying around her dorm-room mattress to symbolize the weight that sexual assault bears on her daily life.  Sulkowicz’s “performance” has encouraged her peers to ask themselves whether they are going to watch her struggle alone or help her carry the weight. Over the past few months, she has not only brought widespread attention to her plight, but inspired many national news outlets and public figures to consider the countless other survivors who are often burdened with silence, shame and/or flat-out suspicion from their peers after an assault. The sheer numbers prove that Sulcowicz is not alone. In 2013, our nation’s colleges and universities reported over 5,000 forcible campus sexual offenses to The US Department of Education. It’s widely believed this number is low because many assaults go unreported and schools don’t always report these crimes to law enforcement or campus authorities. Moreover, 41% of the school’s officials chose not to conduct an investigation.
Senator Gillibrand, and a bi-partisan group of senators are currently sponsoring a bill to address the lack of direct action against sexual assault. The bill is titled, “The Campus Accountability and Safety Act” and some of its key provisions include:
  • Stiff fines for colleges and universities that under report campus sexual assaults
  • Guaranteeing a safe and confidential place for students to access in the event of an assault
  • Proper training for campus authorities led by  survivors themselves
In addition to these initiatives, at the federal level, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is undergoing investigations of nearly 100 colleges and universities for violations of Title IX with respect to campus sexual assaults.
Hats off to New York’s Senator Kristen Gillibrand for leading the way.  Read more at HuffPost.com