A student at a university in the US has vowed to carry the mattress she was allegedly sexually assaulted on around campus until her rapist is expelled.
Emma Sulkowicz says she was raped by a fellow student at Columbia University on the first day of second year. After reporting the incident to university officials, she attended a hearing seven months later, where she says her rapist was found not guilty.
"I was raped in my own dorm bed and since then that space has become fraught for me and I feel like I've carried the weight of what happened there with me everywhere since then," she told the Columbia Daily Spectator.
For her senior thesis, called 'carry that weight', she will be carrying her dorm room mattress everywhere she goes for as long as she attends the same university as her rapist.
"It could take a day, or it could go on until I graduate.
"The past year has been really marked by telling people what happened in that most intimate private space."
Writing in Time, Sulkowicz described the effects of the incident which has haunted her since.
"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."
Although the sophomore appealed the decision made at the hearing, she was unsuccessful.
"Appeals go to the dean who basically has the autonomy to make the final decision for every case of sexual assault on campus. That’s not right. They either must find a disinterested party or they should train him because he hasn’t been trained to know to deal with survivors.
"I’ve lost friends because some people just don’t understand what it means to be raped. One friend asked me if I thought that my rapist would be expelled from school. I said, “I really hope so.” And he said, “Poor guy” because I think many men see rape as kinky sex that went wrong. They say girls are confusing and it’s hard to tell when you’re supposed to stop. When I was raped, I was screaming “no” and struggling against him. It was obviously not consensual, but he was turned on by my distress."
Columbia University has yet to comment on the Sulkowicz's case.
The institution has been the subject of numerous high profile incidents, including one where the names of four alleged rapists were scrawled on the wall of a women's toilet at the university.
In April, a group of 23 Columbia and Barnard College students filed three federal complaints accusing administrators of allowing students accused of assault to remain on campus, while discouraging victims from reporting incidents.