While I was an undergrad in college, I remember walking to class and seeing lots of fellow classmates talking on their cellphones. And who were they talking to? Maybe their friends back home , but mostly their parents. I could hear them saying “Yeah, mom” or “Yeah, dad” and talking about all their details concerning their days in college.
Yet, one can only imagine what these students do not say in the public eye of campus grounds but instead divulge to their parents in the secret and trust of their dorm rooms or home.
Yesterday, Emma Sulkowicz’s parents, a student at Columbia raped by a fellow student and whose case was horribly mishandled by Columbia University administration, wrote an open letter to President Bollinger and the Board of Trustees describing their experience seeing Emma’s suffering caused by reporting her rape to university administration. In this retrospective letter they detail many of the instances wherein they knew the adjudication process was flawed but could not do anything about it considering its administrative participants perpetuated and exercised those flaws in every way.
Emma’s college experience as a survivor in one way has motivated many other survivors to speak of their experiences (she may not have been the first, but she has catalyzed another wave of survivors speaking out). Her story also pushed her parents to vocalize their experience in support of their daughter considering the unrelenting disservice provided by the university administration they counted on for justice.
Survivors’ who hold a great relationship with their parents have a profound emotional resource. Parents are an integral part to a survivor’s growth and development because like the acceptance of friends, the emotional support and acceptance of parents grounds itself in a certain unconditionality that keeps giving strength to the survivor.
While Emma’s parents’ helplessness to fight the administrative system mirrors the experience of many parents like Emma’s, their unconditional support is one other thing that survivors like Emma carry with them against their fight to fix the injustices against survivors.