The Columbia University student being called a rapist by members of the media and a woman who has been carrying her mattress around for performance art is suing.
Paul Nungesser was accused by fellow Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz of brutally beating and raping her during a sexual encounter he insists was consensual. Despite a police investigation that failed to charge Nungesser and the university finding him "not responsible," Sulkowicz and her enablers — including Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, have continued to harass Nungesser by calling him a "rapist."
Now, Nungesser is suing his university, its president and trustees and the visual arts professor that allowed the mattress project to go forward.
Nungesser and his attorneys, Nesenoff & Miltenberg LLP, allege that the university was complicit in allowing the harassment to commence, which "significantly damaged, if not effectively destroyed Paul Nungesser's college experience, his reputation, his emotional well-being and his future career prospects."
Nungesser alleges in his 56-page lawsuit that Columbia knew about the harassment and did nothing to stop it, becoming first "silent bystander and then turned into an active supporter."
The lawsuit includes dozens of Facebook messages between the two friends — far more than were included in the Daily Beast article in which Nungesser finally told his side of the story. The messages contained many declarations of Sulkowicz's love for Nungesser before and after the alleged rape.
Seven months after the alleged rape, Sulkowicz filed a report with the university. The school spent another seven months investigating and, after a two-hour hearing, found Nungesser "not responsible." He would was cleared of the charges even though he wasn't allowed to introduce the Facebook messages sent after the alleged rape showing no signs of distress from Sulkowicz.
Sulkowicz tried to get other women to accuse Nungesser of sexual assault. Columbia found Nungesser not responsible for those claims as well.
Just days after Sulkowicz's appeal was denied, she began getting advice from a publicist and Nungesser began being followed by the media, the lawsuit alleges. The accusers shared Nungesser's name to the New York Post, despite a confidentiality agreement with Columbia. Sulkowicz also gave Nungesser's name to a Columbia student reporter.
Nungesser had been abiding by the confidentiality agreement, and says in his lawsuit that Columbia University advised him to ignore the media. Nungesser says the school never took action against his accusers for breaching the confidentiality policy.
About six months after Sulkowicz's appeal failed, Nungesser's name was published in the school newspaper alleging he was an unpunished rapist. Sulkowicz then filed a report with police, but after a three-hour conversation with the District Attorney's office, no charges were filed. Three weeks later, according to the lawsuit, Sulkowicz claimed that it was she who stopped the police investigation.
Sulkowicz at that time began a whirlwind media tour for her art project, wherein she carried a mattress around claiming to be a rape survivor (and Nungesser being the rapist).
Her professor is included in the lawsuit because of his statements regarding the art project. In one article for the Columbia Spectator, her professor said "carrying around your university bed — which was also the site of your rape — is an amazingly significant and poignant and powerful symbol."
Meanwhile, Columbia has allowed this bullying and harassment of Nungesser to continue.
"In complete disregard of Paul's rights to be free of, among other things, gender-based harassment and gender based stalking, Columbia has allowed Emma to carry the mattress into each of her classes, the library, and on Columbia campus-provided transportation," the lawsuit states.
Columbia president Lee Bollinger is included in the lawsuit for publicly supporting Sulkowicz's harassment campaign against Nungesser.
"This is a person who is one of my students, and I care about all of my students," Bollinger told New York Magazine. "And when one of them feels that she has been a victim of mistreatment, I am affected by that. This is all very painful."
Of course, no such care was taken for Nungesser.
The lawsuit also includes a table showing 35 countries around the world that covered the story, taking Sulkowicz's claims at face value.
Threats to Nungesser have appeared online and on Sulkowicz's Facebook account, including one message suggesting Nungesser commit suicide. (Sulkowicz "liked" that comment.)
In response to the lawsuit, Sulkowicz (who is not being sued), told the Associated Press that she thinks "it's ridiculous that Paul would sue not only the school but one of my past professors for allowing me to make an art piece." She also said that it was "ridiculous that he would read it as a 'bullying strategy,' especially given his continued public attempts to smear my reputation, when really it's just an artistic expression of the personal trauma I've experienced at Columbia."
So, her media campaign to brand him a rapist was art, but him defending himself is bullying?
When asked by the Washington Examiner why Sulkowicz was not included in the lawsuit, Nungesser's attorney Andrew Miltenberg said: "This case is not about Emma Sulkowicz. It is about Columbia University and its ivy-covered halls, and the responsibilities it owes as a place of higher learning."
He added: "Here, Columbia University, as an institution, was not only silent, but actively and knowingly supported attacks on Paul Nungesser, after having determined his innocence, legitimizing a fiction. Emma Sulkowicz is merely a footnote to this story, we already know that she cleverly crafted a story and rode it to celebrity on the back on [sic] someone found not responsible." (Emphasis original.)
As to why Sen. Gillibrand was not included in the lawsuit, this article will explain.
Nungesser seeks an unspecified amount in damages including emotional and psychological trauma he has gone through, the damage to his reputation and past and future economic losses and loss of future career prospects.
Thanks to K.C. Johnson for posting the lawsuit.