What’s It Like To Become A Mattress-Carrying Voice For Rape Survivors? We Asked

Emma Sulkowicz's thesis has set off a massive discussion about rape and accountability.

UPDATE: Columbia University sent a statement after the publication of this story. It was added at the bottom of the page at 3:48 p.m. EST.

The majority of rapes go unreported to the police — 60% according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. That means the average survivor stays silent. Well, Emma Sulkowicz is anything but average.

The Columbia University senior is carrying a mattress around campus — as part of a performance art piece — until her alleged rapist leaves the school. Her decision to do so has garnered her an overwhelming response from the press, fellow survivors and detractors alike, putting her life, past and troubles under an unprecedented kind of microscope.

The visual arts major went through all the traditional channels after she was allegedly raped by a serial offender during her sophomore year — but after the school failed to bring her attacker to justice, then the police and now, potentially, the government (she is one of 23 students who have filed federal Title IX complaints against Columbia in April for mishandling sexual-assault cases), she decided it’s more important to be heard than to win.

MTV News caught up with Sulkowicz Thursday (September 4) in the midst of the media blitz around her thesis project, titled “Carry That Weight,” to see what it’s like to be one of the 40% that has decided not to stay quiet.

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