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National Rape Icon Reportedly Said ‘I Love You’ to Alleged Rapist Weeks After Attack

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Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University senior who has become a national icon for women by carrying a mattress wherever she goes to remind the public of her claim that she was sexually assaulted by fellow student Paul Nungesser, reportedly sent romantic Facebook messages to Nungesser after the alleged assault, including, “I love you.”

Nungesser, who has been threatened and harassed as a result of Sulkowicz’s allegations, has always protested his innocence, despite a media frenzy that made him a pariah in the college community. Sulkowicz, on the other hand, has been feted by the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation, and invited to the State of the Union Address by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

The story began in the students’ freshman year, according to Nungesser, who says they met as leaders in the Columbia Outdoor Orientation Program (COÖP), a freshman pre-orientation experience. Both joined Alpha Delta Phi (ADP), a coed fraternity; by the end of their freshman year, he stated, “we were beginning to develop a very close friendship; it was an intimate friendship where we would hug each other and so on, but always platonic.” Nungesser says he occasionally slept over in Sulkowicz’s room during their freshman year, eventually leading to a sexual encounter at the end of the year.

Nungesser professes, “The next morning, we had a talk about it and we both felt that it was not really a good idea,” but four or five weeks later, it happened again, with another talk afterward, and they separated for the summer, during which they chatted intimately on Facebook.

Then, just before school started again, on August 27, 2012, they met at a party for COÖP leaders. Nungesser says Sulkowicz invited him to her room; both agree the encounter started with consensual sex, but Sulkowicz states that Nungesser turned violent, choking and hitting her, then finally anally raping her before leaving. Nungesser, on the other hand, asserts that the anal intercourse was mutually agreed upon, leading to other sexual activity, after which they fell asleep. He says he left the next morning while she was still sleeping.

Sulkowicz says she filed a complaint within the university system several months later, after being informed of other supposed sexual assaults Nunbgesser committed. Nungesser was later exonerated of all charges.

The rubber meets the road when examining the disparate accounts of the aftermath of the alleged assault; Sulkowicz has said she was too embarrassed and ashamed to even mention the rape, but Nungesser says they had a cordial relationship for weeks afterward. He furnished The Daily Beast with Facebook messages from August, September, and October 2012. Sulkowicz told The Daily Beast that the messages were authentic.

On August 29, 2012, two days after the alleged assault, Nungesser messaged Sulkowicz on Facebook: “Small shindig in our room tonight—bring cool freshmen.” She answered, “Lol yusss … Also 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”A week and a half later, on Sept. 9, Sulkowicz contacted Nungesser to ask if he wanted to “hang out a little bit” before or after an ADP meeting. She ended her message by writing, “whatever I want to see yoyououoyou … respond—I’ll get the message on ma phone”

Most importantly, on Oct. 3, Sulkowicz’s birthday, Nungesser messaged her with a warm opening, to which she responded the next day, “I love you Paul. Where are you?!?!?!?!”

Nungesser says there were numerous text messages of warmth around the same time.

Nungesser says that after the winter break, Sulkowicz did not answer his Facebook messages but texted him in March about a meeting, which never materialized. Sulkowicz told The Daily Beast that she did not respond because she had contacted the Office of Gender-Based Misconduct about the alleged assault. She claimed, “They asked me if I’d ever ‘tried talking it out’ with Paul. So, because they suggested it, I sent him a text message listing a few times during which I would be free and said that I was ready to talk. However, when he texted me back, it hit me that there was no way I could meet him one-on-one somewhere. It triggered so much pain and fear that I couldn’t bring myself to text him back.”

There is a problem with that story; Columbia’s Title IX coordinator, Melissa Rooker, said that the Gender-Based Misconduct Policy for Students at Columbia never recommends informal resolution for sexual-assault complaints.

Carrying the mattress for Sulkowicz serves a double purpose; not only has it garnered her national attention; it is also her senior project for her visual arts degree. Meanwhile, the threats against Nungesser have included verbiage like: “The name of Emma Sulkowicz’s rapist is Jean-Paul Nungesser. Don’t let him have any feeling of anonymity or security. Rapists don’t get the luxury of feeling comfortable,” or this on Facebook: “I’m only pissed that I’m not in NY to CUT HIS THROAT MYSELF!”


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