NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Columbia University student who says she was raped in her dorm room two years ago is carrying a mattress with her everywhere she goes until her attacker is expelled.
Emma Sulkowicz, a senior majoring in visual arts, said it is part of her thesis, an endurance performance art piece called “Carry That Weight.”
Sulkowicz said she was raped on the first day of her sophomore year. She reported it to the university months later, one of three cases against the same student. The school found the student was not guilty. Sulkowicz appealed, but lost. She told the Columbia Spectator student newspaper that the incident wasn’t properly investigated.
“I was raped in my own dorm bed, and since then, that space has become fraught for me,” Sulkowicz says in an online video. “And I feel like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then.”
She said she will carry the mattress with her “for as long as I attend the same school as my rapist.”
Since the incident, Sulkowicz, who is among those suing Columbia over the way the university has handled recent sexual assault cases, has become an outspoken critic of the school’s sexual assault adjudication policies and has told her story to several media outlets, including Time magazine and The New York Times.
“I do think that nowadays art pieces can include whatever the artist desires, and in this performance art piece, it utilizes elements of protest,” she says on the video.
For its part, the university said in a statement it has updated the sexual assault policy on campus and even recently expanded training for incoming undergrads, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported.
“Their revised policy still has gaping holes,” said Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, with the campus rape survivor and activist group No Red Tape Columbia. “I think what she’s doing is forcing people to confront this reality. It’s been her private reality for too long, but it’s really been our reality as a community.”
Fellow students also applauded Sulkowicz for her bravery.
“I haven’t personally come up against it, thank God, but, I mean, if she’s going out to that length I believe in it strongly,” sophomore Janay Anderson said.
“I do respect it. I think it’s a great way to bring attention to it,” junior Tobias Krogh added.
The university wouldn’t commented on Sulkowicz’s case.
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