Student's dramatic stand on rape case

Last updated 10:34 04/09/2014
Emma Sulkowicz

TAKING A STAND: Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz pledges to carry a mattress every day till her alleged rapist leaves campus.

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A student from New York City's Columbia University has used her experience of being forced to attend college with her rapist as the basis for her senior visual art thesis.

As part of the performance art piece, Emma Sulkowicz will be carrying a mattress around campus to signify the emotional and personal burden she's endured following the incident. 

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

"I will be carrying this dorm room mattress with me everywhere I go for as long as I attend the same school as my rapist. The piece could potentially take a day, or it could go on until I graduate." 

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Sulkowicz is among the 23 students from Columbia who filed a federal complaint against the institution in April, citing "systematic mishandling of assault claims and mistreatment of victims". 

Among the allegations, the students said that campus counselling services pressured them not to report sexual assault or harassment, told them not to discuss sexual assault cases outside the uni's own disciplinary process, and rarely expelled students who were found to have committed sexual assault.

In May, Sulkowicz penned a piece for Time magazine, highlighting her fear and anger at being forced to attend school while her rapist remained on campus.  

"I was raped by a fellow classmate the first day of my sophomore year," she wrote in the article. "Every day, I am afraid to leave my room. Even seeing people who look remotely like my rapist scares me. Last semester, I was working in the dark room in the photography department. Though my rapist wasn't in my class, he asked permission from his teacher to come and work in the dark room during my class time. I started crying and hyperventilating. As long as he's on campus with me, he can continue to harass me."

- Daily Life

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