Columbia Student Carries Mattress Around Campus in Rape Protest

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A Columbia University student who says the school mishandled her rape complaint, and she's now protesting with performance art. Chris Glorioso reports. (Published Thursday, Sep 4, 2014)

    A Columbia University senior is carrying a mattress wherever she goes on campus to protest the way she says the university mishandled her rape complaint. 

    “It’s an art piece but also a protest,” Emma Sulkowicz said.

    For months, Sulkowicz has accused the Ivy League school of bungling her rape complaint.

    The art student says a fellow student raped her in her dorm room bed on Aug. 27, 2012, the first day of her sophomore year. She reported it to campus authorities in April 2013.

    Sulkowicz said she waited until the end of her sophomore year to file the report because she was hesistant and scared, and she made her decision after she spoke to other women who said they'd also been sexually assaulted by the same student. 

    The university found the accused student "not responsible" seven months later, during Sulkowicz's junior year. Sulkowicz said the school’s investigation and hearing process was slow and insensitive.

    She then went to police in May 2014, a year and 9 months after she says she was raped, to file a rape report. 

    The NYPD did not make an arrest in the case. 

    “It was so late in the game that the police had no evidence to go off of,” Sulkowicz said.

    In response to the mattress protest, Columbia University Director of Communications Victoria Benitez said in a statement: 

    “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."  

    After Sulkowicz and 22 other students filed a Title IX complaint against Columbia, the school unveiled a revamped sexual misconduct policy this summer. It includes a new office aimed at making sex crime reporting easier for students.

    The school has also hired more staff to counsel students and handle sexual misconduct complaints.

    Sulkowicz acknowledges the new reforms, but says they aren’t enough. She plans to continue carrying her mattress to every class until the university takes action against the student she says got away with rape.

    “I will carry a mattress for every day I go to school with him this next semester, everywhere I go on campus," she said. "The administration can end my art piece at any moment by just expelling my rapist.”

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