College student carries mattress around campus to protest lack of sanctions against rapist
A Columbia University senior is protesting the lack of disciplinary action against the student she accused of raping her by carrying a mattress around campus to symbolize the attack, the Columbia Daily Spectator reported.
“The thing about beds is, we keep them in our bedroom, which is this intimate space, our private space, where we can retreat if we don’t want to deal with anyone at that moment,” Emma Sulkowicz said in an interview posted online. “The past year or so of my life has been marked with telling people what happened in that most intimate, private space and bringing it out into the light.”
New York Magazine reported that Sulkowicz, a visual arts major, is one of 23 students who filed a federal Title XI lawsuit this past April accusing school officials of pressuring them not to report attacks against them. The suit also argues that disciplinary hearings related to sexual assault are conducted by personnel lacking the proper training on the issue.
A month after joining the federal lawsuit, Sulkowicz filed a police report accusing a man identified as Jean-Paul Nungesser of raping her in August 2012.
The report stated that, after Sulkowicz and Nungesser had consensual sex in her dorm room, Nungesser hit her, choked her and forced himself on her without her consent. Sulkowicz filed a complaint to the university after meeting two other women allegedly assaulted by Nungesser. He was found “not responsible” in April 2013. Sulkowicz recounted the hearing in a column for Time Magazine this past May.
“I appealed, but appeals go to the dean who basically has the autonomy to make the final decision for every case of sexual assault on campus,” she wrote. “That’s not right. They either must find a disinterested party or they should train him because he hasn’t been trained to know to deal with survivors.”
Sulkowicz has also made the protest into her senior thesis, a performance art piece she called “Mattress Performance” or “Carry That Weight.” She told the Spectator she intends to continue carrying the mattress until her alleged attacker is expelled.
“I feel like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there everywhere since then,” she told the Spectator.
Watch Sulkowicz’s interview with the Spectator, as posted online on Tuesday, below.