A Columbia University senior is drawing attention to the issue of rape on campus by carrying a mattress with her, saying she'll keep bearing the load until her rapist is kicked out of school. Now, the man she accuses of the attack is speaking publicly for the first time, and he maintains his innocence in an interview with the New York Times. Paul Nungesser, who has become something of a campus pariah after being accused of attacks on three women, says his sexual encounter with Emma Sulkowicz was entirely consensual. It's not a matter of "misunderstanding," he says: "What was alleged was the most violent rape, and that did not happen."
"My mother raised me as a feminist," he notes, calling sexual assault an issue that needs addressing. "I'm someone who would like to think of myself as being supportive of equal rights for women." The newspaper also spoke with Sulkowicz's mother, who has slammed the university's response to the alleged incident. She says the university's reaction has also hurt Nungesser. "I think by sweeping it under the rug they've subjected him to a very painful, scarring experience," Sandra Leong says. "He probably also is holding on for dear life because it's a free education … But ostracism is also horrible." (Elsewhere in the Times, researcher Callie Marie Rennison suggests that a focus on campus rapes has "distracted us from the victimization of those enjoying less social and economic advantage," who, she finds, experience a 30% higher rate of assault.)