Monday, February 9, 2015

Is mattress-toting Emma Sulkowicz a rape victim or a woman who manufactured her own victimhood with a story that's a moving target? Here's the timeline.

Mattress-toting, alleged rape victim and performance artist Emma Sulkowicz is a feminist icon because progressive pundits have treated her rape accusation against Paul Nungesser as tantamount to a conviction. Daniel Garisto, former editorial page editor of the Columbia Spectator (the Spectator is one of Sulkowicz's biggest cheerleaders), has now admitted that the campus news media didn't cover Sulkowicz's story impartially, critically, or thoroughly: "Personally, I felt that if I covered the existence of a different perspective—say, that due process should be respected—not only would I have been excoriated, but many would have said that I was harming survivors and the fight against sexual assault," he wrote. See also here. Yesterday, the New York Post said Mr. Nungesser deserves an apology "from the media and the ­cabal of feminists . . . who have supported his ­accuser unquestioningly."

Does Sulkowicz's story add up? Is she a rape victim? Or a woman who manufactured victimhood with a story that's a moving target? Consider the following timeline of pertinent events:
  • August 27, 2012: The alleged sexual assault.
  • August 29, 2012: Sulkowicz responded enthusiastically to Mr. Nungesser's invitation to a party, writing that “we need to have some real time where we can talk about life and thingz (sic).” And: "I feel like we need to have some real time where we can talk about life and thingz . . . because we still haven’t really had a paul-emma chill sesh since summmmerrrr" See here.
  • September 9, 2012: Sulkowicz contacted Mr. Nungesser to suggest they “hang out” before or after the meeting of a literary society, adding, “whatever I want to see yoyououoyou.” See here.
  • October 3, 2012: Sulkowicz wrote to Mr. Nungesser: “I love you Paul. Where are you?!?!?!?!” See here.
  • April 2013: Sulkowicz files a complaint against Mr. Nungesser about the alleged sexual assault with the University.
  • October 2013: Mr. Nungesser is found not responsible by the school's disciplinary board following a hearing that employed the lowest standard of review possible, preponderance of the evidence.
  • January 2014: A Columbia blogger reports that Sulkowicz said she feels fundamentally unsafe in her environment, and that her energies are devoted to steeling herself for an unexpected run-in with Mr. Nungesser and “I feel physically ill every time I walk within 100 feet of [him]. I am constantly on edge, fearing he’ll be around the corner.” She burst into tears when he had recently walked in a dark room where she was. See here (the story uses pseudonyms because Sulkowicz was still anonymous).
  • May 2014: Sulkowicz filed a police report but decided not to pursue criminal charges because, she said, "they told it me it would take nine months to a year to actually go to court . . . ." See here.
  • May 15, 2014: Time Magazine reports that Sulkowicz said this: "I didn’t report it at first because I didn’t feel like dealing with the emotional trauma." See here.
  • June 12, 2014: The Indypendent posts an interview with Sulkowicz. She described the "rape," ending with "I was petrified. And then he ran out." She added: "I spent months in denial. I wasn’t really ready to believe that I’d been raped." See here.
  • September 2014: Sulkowicz starts toting a mattress around campus.
  • November 2014: Sulkowicz told a crowd of supporters: "I’m no less afraid [now] of seeing my rapist every time I leave my dorm.” See here.
  • February 3, 2015: Cathy Young writes an article for the Daily Beast giving Mr. Nungesser's side of the story and, for the first time, revealing the messages that occurred between the principals in August, September and October 2012 referenced above. See here.
  • February 3, 2015: In response to Cathy Young's article, Sulkowicz told writer Julie Zeilinger the supposed reason she reached out to her "rapist" in the days after the alleged assault: “I was upset and confused. … I wanted to have a talk with him to try to understand why he would hit me, strangle me and anally penetrate me without my consent.” See here.

How did Sulkowicz go from wanting to see and hang out with Paul Nunsegger in the days after the alleged assault (and telling him she loved him), to allegedly being terrified of running into him and of suffering great trauma when she was near him? In the months after the alleged rape, was she "in denial" about being assaulted (as the Indypendent reported she said in June 2014) -- or in the aftermath of the alleged rape, was she a woman intent on "understanding" why she was assaulted, as she claimed on February 3, 2015? The two positions do not seem to be consistent.

The feminist community has criticized Cathy Young's article because it plays into the myth of the "perfect rape victim" -- that is, because Ms. Sulkowicz didn't act like a hypothetical "perfect" victim, rape apologists are discrediting her narrative. First, to assert that any and every kind of after-the-fact behavior supposedly is evidence of rape is absurd on its face and a grotesque distortion of the post-traumatic stress disorder that afflicts some rape victims. To my knowledge, Sulkowicz has never been diagnosed with any such disorder. Second, the above timeline doesn't raise questions about the rationality of Sulkowicz's behavior as much as her credibility. Third, the argument is a red herring to hide its premise: always believe women when they cry rape, no matter how unbelievable their claims or how inconsistent with "rape" was their behavior. To accept this premise is to make every accusation its own conviction -- truth, justice, and due process be damned.

Perhaps Sulkowicz was raped, and perhaps she suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder that was never diagnosed, but her conduct may also be consistent with Mr. Nungesser's side of the story: that she is lying. I don't know, and neither do the feminist pundits who insist she should be believed merely because she says she was raped. I do know this: Sulkowicz's claims should not go unchallenged by the news media. There are two sides to every rape claim, and it is not "rape apology" to point that out. (I do have to wonder whether the feminist community will ever accept the legitimacy of a verdict or college hearing determination if it isn't what they had hoped for.)

Or perhaps there was no rape and Sulkowicz isn't lying. Perhaps there is something else going on. America's leading college anti-rape advocate, Brett Sokolow, says that male students are often accused of sexual assault when charges are not warranted. In "case-after-case . . . sincere victims believe something has happened to them that evidence shows absolutely did not . . .." And: "We see complainants who genuinely believe they have been assaulted, despite overwhelming proof that it did not happen." Mr. Sokolow suggested that "mental health issues" play a part in these sorts of accusations. 

Hmm: "Mental health issues?" The only thing I know about this woman is that she does walk around campus carrying a mattress . . .. Just sayin'.