College rape survivor will carry her mattress around campus until her rapist is expelled

Emma Sulkowicz is turning her assault into art -- and a protest against Columbia University's sexual assault policy

Published September 3, 2014 4:00PM (EDT)

Emma Sulkowicz
Emma Sulkowicz

On the first day of her sophomore year of college, Emma Sulkowicz was raped in her dorm room bed. The Columbia University senior says the perpetrator was a fellow student. He still is -- and has been since he allegedly assaulted Sulkowicz and two other female students. As Sulkowicz reported in Time earlier this year, all three cases against her offender were dismissed. So, she's not taking it anymore.

After joining a federal complaint in April over Columbia's mishandling of rape cases and speaking out about the school's failure to address her assault, Sulkowicz is now embarking on yet another effort -- an artistic one -- to make change on campus. For her senior thesis project, the visual arts major will perform what she is calling "an endurance art piece," in which she will carry around a standard twin-size dorm room mattress with her everywhere she goes, until her rapist is removed from school.

"A mattress is the perfect size for me to just be able to carry it -- enough that I can continue with my day, but also heavy enough that I have to continually struggle with it," Sulkowicz said in a video for the Columbia Spectator. "I think the other thing about beds it that we keep them in ... our intimate space, our private space. But I think the past year or so of my life has been really marked by telling people what happened in that most intimate, private space and bringing it out into the light."

The piece, titled "Mattress Performance" or "Carry That Weight," could go on for a day or until Sulkowicz graduates, she said. Either way, it will not end until change has been made.

Watch Sulkowicz explain the piece for the Columbia Spectator below:

By Jenny Kutner

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