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This woman is the brave face of a revolution 1 in 5 of us need.

By KATE LEAVER

There’s a revolution happening on college campuses around the world. President Obama has joined — and if we care about the future of young women at all, we must join too.

This revolution started somewhat unconventionally: With one 21-year-old girl and her navy blue single mattress.

Emma Sulkowicz is currently carrying her mattress everywhere she goes.

She’ll carry that damn mattress around until the guy who raped her has been expelled.

Until Columbia University – to whom she pays thousands of dollars a year – chooses to protect her, rather than silence or neglect her.

Honestly? She’s my hero right now. The simplicity of her one-woman protest is beguiling. And already, students have come forward to support her.

Here she is, with a group of students helping her carry her mattress — and in turn, the truth of her assault — around. They’re literally, physically, lightening her burden. In a broader social sense, that’s exactly what we need to do for the 1 in 5 women who, like Emma, have their bodies violated sexually by men they know or trust.

That’s 1 in 5 women at universities in America. But it’s also 1 in 5 Australian women.

Sexual violence against women on university campuses is an epidemic. Until now, victims have stayed quiet — scared that their reputations will be tarnished, that their friends will turn against them, or that they’ll be blamed for soliciting their own assault.

The majority do not or cannot report their crimes, and those who do largely  choose to stay anonymous.

And yet, here’s Emma Sulkowicz, with her name, her face, her identity, and the horrific details of her abuse, out in public.

It’s revolutionary. And as far as I’m concerned:

COME THE REVOLUTION. 

In universities across America and here in Australia, women are routinely drugged, beaten, betrayed, and raped — overwhelmingly by guys they know and like.

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Just this week, the head of a fraternity at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was taken in on drug charges after it was alleged that female students are marked with a pen as they enter a party and served spiked drinks, with the explicit intent to sexually abuse them.

According to The Fix, police are investigating claims that students at the “Tau Kappa Epsilon” fraternity used prescription drugs to force girls into a physical state where they were incapable of protecting themselves.

Because the purchase of illegally obtained drugs is involved, the police could take action.

But in so many other fraternities, at so many other parties, in the halls and common rooms and bedrooms of so many other colleges, crimes are committed in the silent dark. Students are raped by men who know they can get away with it — because fear is a powerful silence and because universities haven’t worked out a way to find, interrogate and punish perpetrators of sexual assault.

There is something profoundly wrong with a culture that breeds young men to behave like this, and systematically leaves women vulnerable or broken by it.

Finally, finally, someone is giving this issue the attention it so desperately needs. President Obama, no less.

He gave a speech to launch a campaign called It’s On Us. Watch it. Know that this is part of the revolution. And demand the same from the leaders of our institutions. From the leader of this country.

We need to take Emma Sulkowicz’s campaign global. Women just like her — survivors of sexual assault on the university campus they attend — need our help to lighten their burden. It’s not just a kindness to do that; it’s a moral and legal obligation.

Do not be mistaken: Australian women are being sexually assaulted at our universities. They deserve better, and they need us to demand it for them.

As I said, when it comes to the epidemic of sexual abuse against women, COME THE REVOLUTION. 

Please note if this post or any of the comments bring up any issues for you, or if you need to speak to someone please call 1800-RESPECT or the NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 424 017.  It does not matter where about you live in Australia, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.


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