Columbia senior Emma Sulkowicz will carry her dorm-room mattress with her everywhere she goes "for as long as I attend the same school as my rapist," she says.
The visual arts major is one of 23 students who have filed federal Title IX complaints against Columbia in April for mishandling sexual-assault cases. For her senior thesis -- two years later -- she's using performance art to protest her attacker's presence.
"The piece could potentially take a day, or it can go on until I graduate," Sulkowicz said about "Carry That Weight" in a video by the Columbia Spectator.
Sulkowicz says she has been constantly haunted by her rape from her first day of sophomore year and humiliated that her alleged attacker is still on campus. She wrote in Time that he continues to lurk: "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."
In that Time article, she explains that two other women connected with her and claimed they were raped by the same man. However, Columbia said they had to treat each case individually, so the women weren't allowed to mention each other in their cases. Sulkowicz also said that she was not permitted to write her own statement, so when administration reviewed the case, they were reading the statement from an investigator, who wrote erroneous notes. Columbia now has two people take notes on the survivor's account.
To learn about rape culture and what you can do to combat it, head over to Look Different.
“If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, call the 24-hour National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673), or visit Rainn.org.”