Columbia University’s “Mattress Girl,” Emma Sulkowicz, has simultaneously become the poster girl for rape on campus and been revealed as a sham. This hasn’t done much to change anyone’s tune about the issue. True or false, it no longer seems to matter.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Friday she hopes recent rape hoaxes will put “more of a spotlight on the problem [of rape].” She was asked if the recent highly publicized hoaxes are “helping or hurting” her advocacy relating to stopping sexual assault on university campuses. “Well, I hope it’s just putting more of a spotlight on the problem. My hope is that it’s not undermining our advocacy, because this is important,” Gillibrand said. “These lives of these women and men–young lives that are being destroyed and ruined, because there is no justice if you are a survivor of rape whether it’s the criminal justice system or whether it’s the campus adjudication process.”
This isn’t some wild-eyed radical, blindly lashing out at a hated enemy. Well, maybe it is, but Kirsten Gillibrand is also a United States Senator from the State of New York, junior to Chuck Schumer, so her irrationality matters a bit more than most. And if there is any question what her concern is, note her words:
because there is no justice if you are a survivor of rape.
Not a victim of rape, but a survivor. Not a victim of false accusations of rape, but a survivor of rape. And she hope that “rape hoaxes” will put a “spotlight on rape.” For those whose heads hurt trying to make sense of the rhetoric, this is a winner. Paul Nungesser was also a Columbia student. One difference between him and mattress girl was that he was cleared of charges of rape, even under the preponderance of evidence standard. Another is that despite his being cleared, Columbia University’s president, Lee Bolinger, chose to go the popular route.
Rather than punishing Sulkowicz for publicly vilifying Nungesser, however, the university instead provided indirect funding for the effort. For example, last December, an event hosted by the Columbia groups No Red Tape and Carry That Weight publicly read a letter outside President Lee Bollinger’s office repeating the claim that Nungesser was a “serial rapist.”
At the time, Mattress Girl was a national hero, even brought to President Obama’s State of the Union address by Sen. Gillibrand as a reflection of her support for the cause. No one in the Columbia administration protected its own student, its other own student, Nungesser, from the ruin of false allegations. No one invited Nungesser to sit beside a senator. Because of the cause. The cause. Few things blind us to truth more than a passionate belief in the cause. Paul Nungesser has now sued Columbia for its failure to protect him from harm, and the allegations of the complaint are devastating.
While Sulkowicz has become a national hero in the campaign against campus sexual assault, the lawsuit uses Facebook messages and other evidence to paint a picture of Sulkowicz as a jilted love interest whose deep obsession with Nungesser transformed into a savage hatred. The complaint extensively draws from Facebook conversations between the two, quoting Sulkowicz as regaling Nungesser with tales of her past and present sexual experiences. At one point, she expresses fears for her reputation after contracting an STD following drunken sex at a party.
The specific accusation made against Nungesser was that he forced anal sex upon Sulkowicz. That too is raised in the subject of the complaint.
The lawsuit even argues it was Sulkowicz herself who first broached the possibility of anal sex with Nungesser, even though claims of forced anal sex are central to her claim of rape. “fuck me in the but,” she said bluntly during one Facebook exchange.
The current spelling standards for Columbia admission notwithstanding, the complaint is replete with the proof of the falsity of Mattress Girl’s allegations. As it turns out, the performance of Sulkowicz carrying a mattress around with her, “carry that weight,” is a work of art in irony.
But what is demonstrated by Gillibrand, and others of her persuasion like the newly tenured* Mary Anne Franks, who reacted to the Nungesser complaint by twitting, “Suit by accused rapist against Columbia U is heavy on bitterness, light on evidence of gender-based discrimination,” as if attributing her brand of emotional attack to paper somehow obviates the existence of facts.
The cause needs no facts. The cause admits no facts. Facts change nothing, as it is because they believe it is, and will attack the victim because the victims are infidels.
“President Bollinger thus displayed a contemptible moral cowardice in bowing down to the witch hunt against an innocent student instead of standing up for the truth and taking appropriate steps to protect Paul from gender based harassment,” the brief says.
Whether or not a rape occurred ought to matter, but then, the question of whether conduct is a rape is no longer a matter of definition or law, but of emotional rhetoric wrapped up in the politics of the cause. What is clear is that proponents of the cause have created a narrative where facts are irrelevant, definitions are nonexistent, and there is nothing that dissuade them from the cause.
The mantra of “believe the accuser” no matter what isn’t just an absurd joke, but has become the foundation for action at the highest levels of government. There are fundamental changes in adjudication happening on the campus, and in broader society, premised on a lie. Nungesser’s complaint may reflect all that is wrong with the martyrdom of Mattress Girl, just as the UVA rape hoax reflected all that was wrong with the blind journalistic acceptance of the false Jackie rape story, but none of this seems to affect the root problem.
The commission and frequency of crime isn’t a religious belief, but either a fact or not. Rape is neither an epidemic or not because of how women feel. And men are not cannon fodder, whose lives are to be sacrificed on the altar of faith, blinded by the tears of those who weep for liars so that they can’t see, or care, about truth.
While being the victim of false accusations of a horrendous crime is good cause for bitterness, that is not the case. Nungesser’s complaint reflects no bitterness, just facts. But facts don’t matter to crusaders for a cause.
* Putting an end to the notion that a law professor need be a lawyer, a scholar or intellectually honest. Students at the University of Miami School of Law will be taught criminal law and procedure by a professor who demonstrates neither knowledge nor concern about criminal law.
This is one of those topics that you’ve changed my mind on over the past few months that I’ve been reading your blog. I used to be one of the bleeding hearts saying “but, but, you need to make sure that actual rape victims feel safe on campus!” I was so, so wrong. Thank you.
Also, in the second quote, “because there is no justice o you are a survivor or rape,” “if” morphed into “o” somehow.
Assuming we can return to some rational consensus on what constitutes rape, I have enormous concern for victims. I also have enormous concern for due process and for victims of false (or exaggerated) allegations. These things are not mutually exclusive, but believing in fairies to the exclusion of facts is just batshit crazy. And too many otherwise “intelligent” people have chosen to eschew reality in favor of their personal fantasies.
I apologize; I didn’t word that very well. I didn’t mean to suggest that you don’t have concern for actual rape victims. I was trying to say that, when I began reading your blog, I was more in line with the crowd that thinks due process is too much of a barrier for rape victims. I was more inclined to think that this mattress stunt, though based on a false accusation, would do more good than harm, and the innocent man who’s life is being ruined be damned.
You know, when I read the quote – “there is no justice if you are a survivor of rape whether it’s the criminal justice system or whether it’s the campus adjudication process.” – I read it as saying that the criminal justice system and campus adjudication process rape women and men.
Probably not what she was actually saying though.
It was what she said, but clearly not what she meant. But then, she’s a senator, so it’s unfair to be too picky about it. Or maybe she was trying to cover all bases?
I advocate that we reduce
Rates of crime perpetrated by Zeus.
His fake swan disguise
Is a sight for sore eyes.
Yet today he is still on the loose!
I think there is a middle ground of providing victims with support and reassurance (something necessary to their peace of mind and recovery) without requiring/allowing society to take vengeance on accused absence objective convincing evidence.
I’m not sure why suggesting such a thing is anathema, but the absence of any such compromise positions anywhere I look is notable to me. I guess it’s hard to take a compromise position when someone is ‘damaged’ by having to continue to live in the same community as their attacker. Is the opinion that it might be better to help such a victim through providing counseling and therapy than expelling the accused without sufficient evidence really so awful?
It seems an interesting case of free speech versus harmful speech though to me though.
The problem, Beth, is that if they are lying about the claim of rape, then they aren’t victims, they aren’t “damaged,” they are the perpetrators of a false rape allegation that harms another person. There is no compromise; either a person has been raped or they haven’t. They are a victim or a perpetrator.
It’s not based on feelings or picking a team to believe, but on facts. There is no fantasy middle ground where liars are victims or rapists should get a free ride.
This is why schools should be out of the business of investigating rape or other crimes. Criminal actions should go directly to the criminal justice system to be handled. Schools are not equipped to investigate or prosecute, when they try they do a piss poor job most of the time.
While I agree completely, there is an irony in this case as the school did adjudicate and found Nungesser not responsible, after which Sulkowicz went to the police who found the evidence insufficient (though Sulkowicz publicly claimed that she decided not to pursue charges, apparently to conceal the finding of insufficiency of the evidence from her fans). So both the university and legal systems were involved, and all came out in favor of Nungesser.
And still we have Mattress Girl and Mattress Girl Senator.
I would agree in this case the system worked, but this is an exception from what I have seen.
This certainly has a way to go before it receive a resolution. Thank you for the insightful comments.
FYI ScribD is a registration-required service. If you’d like to download the Nungesser complaint without signing up for anything it is at https://kcjohnson.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/nungesser-complaint.pdf.
Thanks. I’ve added in the link.