Emma Sulkowicz, a senior at Columbia, has been carrying her mattress around campus.

Why? Because she was raped on campus, and as part of her senior thesis entitled “Carry that Weight,” she will drag her mattress everywhere she goes on campus until her rapist is expelled or leaves.

Sulkowicz was raped in her dorm room, and two other Columbia students say the same male student also raped them (he remains a student at Columbia). Sulkowicz is receiving both local and national coverage for her thesis. She is also shedding light on rape, especially rape that occurs on college campuses.

In a recent report, the CDC found that roughly 1.7 percent of American men and 19.3 percent of American women have been raped in their lifetime. That means almost one in five women in the U.S. have been victims of rape.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center defines sexual assault as any type of unwanted sexual contact.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if a friend tells you they were sexually assaulted:

  • Encourage your friend to get medical attention—offer to take them to the doctor and to stay with them during the appointment.
  • Listen and be non-judgmental.
  • Remind them that it was not their fault, and assure them that you will be there for them during every step of their recovery.
  • Help your friend find a therapist and sexual assault group. The therapist will help them get their life back, and being with other sexual assault survivors will help strengthen them.
  • Let your loved one know that help is available through the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1.800.656.HOPE) and the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline.

Are you trying to recover from an act of sexual violence? Please keep these tips in mind:

Seek medical attention: It’s important to receive treatment after an assault for any injuries and to check for any sexually transmitted diseases (important: even if you don’t plan on reporting the assault, you still need to seek help from a doctor). Resist the urge to shower before going to the doctor. In order to convict your rapist and stop him/her from doing it again, the doctor needs to collect evidence from your body. Don’t wash your clothes either.

Seek emotional help: Recovering from rape takes time, and it can be a long, complicated experience. Confide in someone you love and trust. Look for a therapist or a group therapy session for victims of sexual assault. Remember: rape is never your fault. You also don’t have to go through the healing process on your own.

Sometimes, husbands, parents, family, and friends of rape victims also struggle with dealing with the news. Therapy can be beneficial for those family members as well.

If you would like to set up an appointment to see Reka, you can reach her at 402-881-8125. You can also email her at reka@omaha-counseling.com, or connect with her via Twitter or Facebook.

photo credit: GlobalGrind