By Jessica Wang
In September 2014, Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University student, began her senior thesis project that involved carrying a 50-pound mattress around campus everyday.
The dark blue mattress, representative of the ones in the university’s dorms, signified Sulkowicz’s alleged rape at the hands of another student and the university’s inaction on the matter.
Subsequently, this sparked a movement of solidarity as fellow students joined Sulkowicz in carrying the mattress across campus. The project lasted an entire semester and seeped into her graduation ceremony in May 2015, as she and students carried it across stage in their gowns.
The media coverage was inspiring. Art critics and journalists praised the performance piece. It had seemed like the antiquated ideals of victim shaming were finally being laid to rest, with white drapes being thrown over them to prevent the accumulation of dust.
So this basically means that society is progressing, right? Wrong.
Victims of sexual abuse still aren’t given the respect that they deserve. The antiquated ideals of victim shaming have not been fully laid to rest, and this is something that I am not here for.
This has been apparent in the recent coverage of Erin Andrews, Fox Sports reporter and co-host of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” who has been entangled in trials against the vile human being who secretly filmed her while she was naked in the privacy of her own Marriott hotel room.
Michael David Barrett had been stalking Andrews for several years. According to NBC News, Barrett spent over two years in prison after admitting to renting rooms near Andrews and secretly filming her on several occasions.
One would assume that the overall message here is loud and clear: this woman suffered a terrible wrong. The video had been leaked into the infinite realm that is the Internet, photo stills were being plastered on publication covers and the incident, overall, is one that could never be undone.
Yet, instead of unanimous sentiments of solidarity and compassion, we are faced with a series of verbal attacks by misguided souls who have coined this incident as one giant publicity stunt to further her career.
Instead of unanimous sentiments of solidarity and compassion, we are faced with a counter defense that indicated that the victim’s career was actually advanced by the footage.
Instead of unanimous sentiments of solidarity and compassion, we are faced with a company that forces a victim of sexual abuse to sit for a one-on-one interview before allowing her back on the air. Andrews worked for ESPN during the time.
Instead of unanimous sentiments of solidarity and compassion, we are faced with allegations of the hotel executive Neal Peskind, showing his friends the leaked footage during a dinner party.
Seriously, DreamWorks should cast Peskind in its next “Madagascar” installment.
The fact of the matter is this: a terrible crime has been committed against an innocent woman, and the aftermath has been a horrific series of victim shaming.
We live in a world where the voices of victims fall on deaf ears.
This has been apparent in pop singer Kesha’s legal battles against producer and alleged abuser Dr. Luke. This has been apparent in the fact that Bill Cosby’s ultimate honorary decline came at the hands of Hannibal Buress as opposed to victim allegations spanning over decades.
While there may be miniscule moments of transparent change every once in a blue moon, as evident in the case of Emma Sulkowicz, the truth of the matter is this: victims of sexual abuse still aren’t given the respect that they deserve, and the antiquated ideals of victim shaming have yet to be fully laid to rest.
Sungah Choi / The Poly Post
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