Columbia student vows to carry mattress around university until her alleged rapist is expelled
Friday, 05 September 2014 - 13:26
A student is dragging her mattress around university every day until her alleged rapist is removed from classes.
Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz says she was attacked in her own dorm room by a classmate almost two years ago.
The visual art student says that since the alleged attack, she feels “like I’ve carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then”.
Her senior thesis, entitled ‘Mattress Performance’ or ‘Carry That Weight,’ embodies the concept of this emotional burden in what she describes as an endurance art piece.
Her project will involve her carrying the mattress everywhere until the man is expelled, meaning she could be carrying it every day until she graduates.
She said: “A mattress is the perfect size for me to just be able to carry it enough that I can continue with my day, but also heavy enough so that I have to continually struggle with it.”
Ms Sulkowicz first reported the incident to the college over two-years-ago, but the man accused was found not to be responsible.
After going public with her story in April, she has joined other women campaigning against the college for what they describe as its failures to deal with sexual assault.
“The past year or so of my life has been really marked by telling people what happened in that most intimate private space and bringing it out into the light,” she says.
“So I think the act of carrying something that is normally found in our bedroom out into the light is supposed to mirror the way I’ve talked to the media and talked to different news channels, etc.”
For the project, Ms Sulkowicz said she is not allowed to ask for help in carrying the mattress around, but will accept help that is offered.
“I’m hoping that not only do I get better at carrying the mattress, but, that, other people will learn about the piece [...] I’m very interested in seeing where this piece goes and what sort of life it takes on,” she added.
In a statement, Columbia University said: “The University respects the choice of any member of our community to peacefully express personal or political views on this and other issues.
“At the same time, the University is committed to protecting the privacy of students participating in gender-based misconduct proceedings. These matters are extremely sensitive, and we do not want to deter survivors from reporting them.
“The University therefore does not comment on these matters.”