A senior from Columbia University is carrying a twin-size mattress everywhere she goes to protest what she says is the institution’s mishandling of an alleged rape that she says took place in her dorm room.
Emma Sulkowicz, 21, claims she was raped in her room on her first day of school during her sophomore year, reports New York Magazine. She has been attempting to make the Ivy League’s administrators and police take the sex crime seriously, but says they have been unresponsive and have refused to address the situation.
As a result, she says, the man who committed this alleged sex crime has been harassing her for years. Last semester, for example, she claims she was working in Columbia’s photography department dark room when the man asked permission from his professor to work with her – even though he isn’t in her class.
“Every day, I am afraid to leave my room,” Sulkowicz wrote in an essay that appeared in Time magazine. She says her rapist made up lies about their encounter when he was questioned by authorities and that she was forced to watch him testify on a television in another room. “It’s that feeling where your stomach drops. Not only was he lying, but he was also making up these entire fantasy stories of sex that we’d had.”
Sulkowicz, who is now a senior and visual arts major, is one of 23 students who have filed a federal Title IX complaint against Columbia for reportedly brushing off sexual assault cases that took place on campus.
As part of her senior thesis, she came up with the idea of carrying her mattress everywhere she went and documenting her experience in a video piece called "Mattress Performance" or "Carry That Weight."
“I was raped in my own dorm bed, and since then that space has become fraught for me,” she says in the video. “I feel like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then.”
Photo Credit: Screenshot