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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Journalist Meghan Daum took on the hot-button issue of college sexual assaults in a recent column for the Los Angeles Times, and her criticism of activists campaigning against campus rape has sparked a firestorm.

Daum zeroed in on Emma Sulkowicz in particular. She’s the Columbia University student who hauled a mattress around campus as a senior art thesis to bring attention to the trauma she endured from a rape and protest how her school handled the case. That mattress has became the symbol for victims across the nation, who are for the first time getting the public attention many feel this issue deserves.

The columnist acknowledges the discourse is “compelling” and “necessary” but also finds it “exasperating.”

What Daum takes issue with is what she calls “wounded women” and their suggesting campus rape is an epidemic. An epidemic, she attempts to clarify, is the more than 200 Nigerian women and girls who were kidnapped and systematically raped at the hands of the Islamic militant group Boko Haram.

Contrasting American college students’ trauma to an international tragedy seemed to downplay what these women had endured, and that had many readers up in arms.

Daum writes:

“Why, when there is so much serious work to be done, does this new generation of feminists only look inward instead of out at the big world?

“I know it’s reductive, even insensitive, to say, ‘Hey, campus activists, why don’t you visit a Nigerian refugee camp and see what real mass trauma looks like?’

It’s not enough to cart around a mattress, Daum suggests, and advocates activists do more to help sexual abuse victims from less privileged socio-economic backgrounds.

“I hope the wounded women at our colleges and universities find a way to heal themselves and then get to work in the places they’re needed most.”

CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Kristine Lazar spoke with a graduate student who says she was disappointed and disgusted with Daum’s article. Francesca Bessey says she was sexually assaulted as an undergraduate at USC.

“This article is ultimately an argument against paying attention to the problem of sexual violence on campus.”

Bessey, who was afraid to come forward after her assault, says bringing attention to sexual assault helps all victims, regardless of where they live: “We have a historical precedent of not talking about sexual trauma at all – be it happening on a battlefield in Northern Africa, or be it happening on a college campus or be it happening in a household.”

On Twitter, comments on the article range from “‘Mattress Girl’ matters,” to “a great a thoughtful piece,” to “What is Meghan Daum’s problem?”

Daum ends her column with: “There is important work to be done. And none of it requires carrying a mattress.”

Lazar reached out to Daum and the L.A. Times for comment, but received no response.

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