Activism

Columbia Student Will Carry Her Mattress Around as Long as Her Rapist Remains on Campus

Senior Emma Sulkowicz is protesting through her art project. (Video)

Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot

Columbia University visual arts senior Emma Sulkowicz is starting her school year off by carrying more than just a backpack and books around campus. As part of her performance-art thesis piece, Sulkowicz will be carrying her mattress around Columbia in order to protest her rapist’s presence on campus.

Sulkowicz says she was raped the first day of her sophomore year. She didn’t report the rape immediately, but after talking to two women who were also assaulted by the same man, they all decided to file reports. She underwent inadequate and re-victimizing hearing process. She wrote in Time:

During my hearing, which didn’t take place until seven months after the incident, one panelist kept asking me how it was physically possible for anal rape to happen. I was put in the horrible position of trying to educate her and explain how this terrible thing happened to me.

Columbia dismissed all three of the women’s cases.

Last week, The Nationpublished an email that an administrator accidentally sent to a student, which revealed the university’s disdain for the anti-rape movement on campus. The administrator basically scoffed at the student’s request for more involvement in campus sexual assault policies.

In April, Sulkowicz filed, along with 22 other students, a Title IX complaint against the university for their mishandling of sexual assault cases.  In May, she decided to report the rape to law enforcement officers, who were equally, if not more insensitive to her case.

"You invited him into your room. That's not the legal definition of rape," one officer told her.

Sulkowicz’s art project is titled Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight.

"I was raped in my own dorm bed, and since then that space has become fraught for me," Sulkowicz said in a video published by the Columbia Spectator. "And I feel like I've carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then."

Watch her video below: 

Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet.