Photo Coverage: Sara Haas
Interviews by: Antoinette Georgy and Sara Haenny
As I walked down Bruin Walk, I witnessed young activists carrying mattresses to protest administrative inaction on sexual assault. It was amazing to hear how much noise a simple twin mattress could make.
On Wednesday, Oct. 29, 7000 in Solidarity: A Campaign Against Sexual Assault brought Carry That Weight to the UCLA campus. It started as a single act of protest by Columbia University student, Emma Sulkowicz, when her school failed to pursue disciplinary action against her rapist. She carries a single twin mattress similar to the one she was assaulted on to class every day as a silent protest against the administration.
As an act of solidarity, UCLA students wrote their own experiences with sexual assault and phrases they commonly associate with gender-based violence. In a powerful moment, students carried two mattresses together while silently walking around campus. Not only does this show support for Emma and other sexual assault survivors, it also opens the conversation about sexual assault at UCLA.
“Hopefully this will cause people to question; have a conversation. I want people to walk down Bruin Walk and ask, ‘Why are they carrying a mattress?’” said Savannah Badalich, Undergraduate Students Association Council Student Wellness Commissioner, who spearheaded the campaign on campus.
Many students from diverse backgrounds participated in the event. Sara Whetzell, a third year Psychology and Linguistics major, said she participated in the event because “far too many people suffer from sexual assault and rape culture.” She also “hopes it will bring awareness to sexual assault and intimate partner violence.”
When asked why this was important at UCLA, Badalich said, “Why not UCLA? One in three women on campus will experience sexual assault. There’s a huge discrepancy between the number of sexual assaults and the number of reports. This is just as much for the administration as it is for the students.”
As a UCLA student, a female and a human being, it infuriates me that in 2014 colleges still value the future of the perpetrators and the reputation of the school, rather than the safety of all students. Not properly punishing Emma’s rapist is a demonstration of administrative victim blaming. Actions speak louder than words. Colleges can preach “zero tolerance,” but until every individual is held accountable for their actions, I will continue to feel unsafe: unsafe to walk alone at night, unsafe to drink at a party, unsafe to simply wear a dress, unsafe to be a woman. I am Emma, my sister is Emma, my fellow classmates are Emma. This can happen to anyone, and instead of standing against us, the administration can stand with us, and stop sexual assault on campus