On Wednesday, two dozen UNC students joined students at other universities in a national display of community solidarity against sexual and domestic violence called “Carry That Weight.”
The demonstration was inspired by a Columbia University student and sexual assault survivor who has committed to carrying a mattress around with her everywhere she goes on campus until her perpetrator is expelled or she graduates.
“We’re making a statement today that (survivors) don’t have to do it alone,” said senior Sarah Pederson. “People are here, and there’s going to be community accountability, and we’re going to work to have safer communities.”
UNC has three pending federal investigations into its compliance with Title IX, a 1972 federal law that protects students from discrimination or harassment on the basis of sex.
Since May, the number of Title IX sexual violence investigations at universities nationwide has jumped by 56.3 percent.
As of May, 55 schools, including UNC, were under investigation. But an updated list published Oct. 22 showed the number had increased to 86 institutions.
“We wouldn’t see these numbers if it were not for survivors being willing to publicly say what has been going on on their college campuses, and that’s pretty incredible,” said Anne Hedgepeth, government relations manager at the American Association of University Women.
Hedgepeth said the increase in Title IX investigations nationwide is due in large part to President Barack Obama’s administration and the Department of Education’s commitment in hearing students’ complaints and concerns about the way their universities handle reports of sexual violence.