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Many victims of rape and sexual assault are reminded of their trauma every day, everywhere.

For her senior thesis, a Columbia University art student will carry around a dorm-sized mattress for as long as she and her alleged rapist attend the same school.

"For me, I was raped in my own dorm bed and since then it's become fraught and I feel like I've carried the weight with me everywhere since then," Emma Sulkowicz, 21, explains in a video by the Columbia Spectator, the school's newspaper.

Sulkowicz tells the Spectator that the extra-long, twin-sized mattress is the right size to draw attention to the issue — light enough to manage, but "heavy enough that I continue to struggle with it." She says it also represents private space being dragged into the public.

The art major is calling the performance art piece "Mattress Performance," or "Carry That Weight." Among elements of the project: She cannot ask for help in carrying the mattress, but she can accept if others offer to help. As part of the piece, she will also write the rules on the wall in her studio.

Sulkowicz reported her alleged sexual assault, which occurred on the first day of her sophomore year in August 2012, after she found out that two other students had made complaints against the same student. Each time, he was found "not responsible" by Columbia University administration.

A year and a half later, Sulkowicz filed a police report for the incident. In its coverage, the Spectator controversially named the alleged rapist.

Sulkowicz is one of 23 students from Columbia and Barnard who filed a federal Title IX complaint in April to the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights about how the universities have handled cases of rape and sexual assault.

In a firsthand account published by Timetitled "My Rapist is Still on Campus," Sulkowicz describes: "Every day, I'm afraid to leave my room. Even seeing people who look remotely like my rapist scares me … As long as he's on campus with me, he can continue to harass me."

Follow @lindsdee on Twitter.

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