When Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz carried a twin size mattress across the stage at her college graduation with the help of her friends, many people there to witness the commencement were probably very surprised.
But the students and faculty who met Emma every day on campus were not, because she had been carrying the mattress with her every day, every where since September of 2014.
Why carry this mattress?
During her sophomore year, Emma reported that she was raped by a fellow classmate in her dorm room. She filed complaints with the school and the police, and nothing ever happened. She then filed a complain with the education board about the university for not responding to her complaint. Her alleged rapist also filed a complain saying that his time on campus and his reputation had been ruined by this allegation.
Nothing ever happened.
In her senior year, this visual arts student decided to do her final project as a kind of performance art: she would carry around a mattress until her alleged rapist was no longer on campus. She is still carrying it on her graduation day. She explains why she chose a mattress in her project introduction video above.
But is she in the wrong?
Her alleged rapist has sued Columbia and the professor instructing Emma's course for allowing her to make (and carry) this project, because it makes his life unbearably stressful. Which might sound horrible if he really did rape her.
But there are many who doubt the validity of her story. Not because of the typical ("she wanted it") mentality, but because of her own actions. She contacted him for weeks before and after the alleged rape attempting to continue a relationship with him. The NYPD wouldn't pursue the case because there were no credible allegations.
While rapists going without prosecution is a big problem, so are false rape accusations, and I'm sadly not sure if we will ever see where this falls on the line. Emma herself may no longer be sure of what really happened.
Still, I think this piece is worthy of attention: because it draws attention to the weight that those involved in rape accusations on every front have a weight to carry, some just do it more publicly than others.