(September 23, 2014)

Student group holds rally to support survivors of assault

SHREVEPORT, LA — On Tuesday, September 16, members of Centenary College's National Organization for Women (NOW) chapter held a rally to send their support to Emma Sulkowicz, a student at Columbia University protesting the not guilty verdict at an institutional hearing of her alleged rapist.

Carry That Weight
Students hold a mattress as an act of support for Emma Sulkowicz and other survivors of assault

Sulkowicz has been carrying her mattress with her until her alleged assailant is expelled. In an act of solidarity, Centenary's NOW students invited classmates to hold a mattress of their own and send a picture of their demonstration to Sulkowicz to show the Centenary community supports her.

"As soon as I read Emma's story, I wished I was at Columbia so I could help her carry that weight, physically, and mentally," said NOW president Simone Byrd '17. "The more I thought about it, I realized I didn't have to travel to Columbia to show Emma support. I knew I wasn't the only person on Centenary's campus who would want to help Emma. Centenary's diversity intern Eli Capello '15 helped me come up with the idea to hold an event in support of Emma on Centenary's campus."

Students across the world are hosting similar events on their campuses as part of a movement #CarryThatWeight to show support for Sulkowicz and other survivors of assault and rape.

Following the demonstration, participants learned how to report cases of assault and utilize on-campus resources. The Department of Public Safety also offered self-defense tips, handed out drink testers and informational flyers addressing sexual assault, and invited students to their free Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) class held on campus.

"It was imperative that we held this event at the beginning of the year so that all returning students and all new students saw that Centenary will not take sexual assault lightly," said Byrd. "Even though Centenary students could not physically help Emma carry her mattress, we raised our own in solidarity to send out a strong message to Emma and to Centenary students that we support survivors of sexual assault."

Centenary's NOW chapter focuses on a variety of issues, including promoting women's, LGBT, and marginalized races rights.

"One of the best parts of NOW is how inclusive we are," said Byrd. "We realize that there are never really just 'women's issues' or 'men's issues.' NOW recognizes that to move forward as a society, we can't focus all our attention on just one half of the population. We all need to work together."

Byrd was encouraged to see both women and men standing against sexual assault at the NOW rally, a partnership that she believes needs to happen in order to end rape on college campuses.

For more information about RAD and other campus resources visit centenary.edu/dps/crimeprevention.