Accused Rapist Files Lawsuit Against Columbia University

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The Columbia University student accused of raping Emma Sulkowicz, dubbed by some “the mattress girl,” has filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging it violated Title IX and intentionally discriminated against him “on the basis of his male sex” by allowing his accuser to repeatedly harass him.

Sulkowicz, a fourth-year visual arts major, has been schlepping around an XL twin-sized dorm mattress–the same kind as the one she says fourth-year Paul Nungesser raped her on their sophomore year–since the beginning of the school year as a performance art protest titled “Carry That Weight.” She has vowed to carry the mattress everywhere she goes until Nungesser is either expelled or chooses to leave the university, and has even said that she’ll carry it to her graduation ceremony if necessary.

Both she and Nungesser have confirmed that they had sporadic consensual sex prior to the alleged rape, during which Sulkowicz claims he choked and slapped her before forcibly anally penetrating her as she repeatedly said “no.” Despite her claims Nungesser was found “not responsible” for sexual misconduct in a hearing conducted by the university. Now Nungesser’s attorney, Andrew Miltenberg, says that his client’s college experience was destroyed because he was made a “pariah” on campus. Miltenberg told BuzzFeed News,

Columbia should not have, after having found him not responsible, actively engaged in the character assassination of Paul Nungesser.

In the lawsuit Nungesser, a German national, seeks unspecified damages, claiming that this viral scandal has “severely jeopardized” his job prospects and ability to remain in the United States. However, it’s not just the university that he’s suing. The lawsuit also names Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger and Jon Kessler, the visual arts professor that approved Sulkowicz’s “Mattress Performance” project, as co-defendants. Emma Sulkowicz’s name is notably absent from the list of defendants, which seems odd, especially when she’s the source of the alleged defamation and harassment. This could potentially be because the university and university officials have bigger check books than the college student, which would come in handy in the event of a cash settlement.

The most disturbing parts of the lawsuit are the transcripts of conversations between Sulkowicz and Nungesser that were included to establish the type of relationship the pair had. The messages paint Sulkowicz as a sexually promiscuous jilted lover who asked Nungesser for anal sex. The messages have even led some to begin comparing her to the University of Virginia’s “Jackie” who has been widely accused of fabricating or embellishing her own high-profile rape allegations.

With that in mind, we should all be very careful before launching a full-blown character assassination on Sulkowicz based on these recovered messages, even though that’s the very same thing that he’s alleging she has done with her campus performance piece.  Ultimately they do not prove that the pair’s last sexual encounter was consensual, although they do bring up some very valid questions. While this case could end with a settlement, it will probably do little to improve the accused rapist’s reputation.

Alexis Evans
Alexis Evans is an Assistant Editor at Law Street and a Buckeye State native. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a minor in Business from Ohio University. Contact Alexis at



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