Emma Sulkowicz is the Ivy League student who will carry a mattress with her everywhere she goes in protest against a rape she says went unpunished.
Sulkowicz made the announcement to the Columbia Spectator in the above video. The performance art piece, “Carry That Weight,” will be included in the Columbia senior’s thesis and is designed to spark debate. She says she’ll carry the mattress until her attacker is expelled.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sulkowicz Says the Man Who Raped Her Is Still at Columbia
Sulkowicz says she was raped by a fellow student two years ago in her dorm room bed, on the first day of her sophomore year. After a college investigation, the male student was deemed “not responsible” and allowed to continue in school.
Sulkowicz says she at first didn’t report the rape but then heard from two other women that they were sexually assaulted by the same man.
2. She’ll Carry the Mattress With Her Everywhere on Campus
On September 2, the first day of classes, Sulkowicz could be seen walking around the Columbia University campus in New York City carrying her mattress. The mattress will eventually be part of her final thesis within the school’s Visual Arts department.
She says she’ll carry it on campus wherever she goes for the entire semester or until her attacker is expelled, and when the project is over she’ll leave it in an art studio on campus. Sulkowicz bought the mattress from the same company the college uses to supply its dorm rooms.
3. She Had to Work in a Dark Room With the Man She Says Raped Her
Writing in Time magazine in May, Sulkowicz discussed her anxiety about being on campus with her attacker:
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.
Above, watch a video from Time about her ordeal.
4. She Filed a Federal Complaint About How Her Case Was Handled by Columbia
Emma Sulkowicz: A brave young woman fighting sexual assault on a college campus. NYTimes 5/4/14 pic.twitter.com/ODljY6CoWt
— Michael Alexander (@Wuyelaolaoshi) May 8, 2014
In April 2014, Sulkowicz and 22 other students from Columbia and Barnard colleges filed a complaint against the colleges over sexual assault complaints. The students argued that the colleges weren’t taking complaints seriously, and at times male students who were found guilty by university review boards were subjected only to minor suspensions.
The complaint was filed to the Department of Education and the Office of Civil Rights. A decision is still pending in the case, reports DNA Info.
5. She Used to Work at a Condom Company
She also says that she worked at Billy Boy USA, a condom manufacturer, for two years. She’s also a fencing enthusiast.