The man accused of sexually assaulting two Columbia students and groping a third broke his silence today in an interview with The New York Times. Paul Nungesser maintains his innocence on all counts, and notes, "My mother raised me as a feminist."
Nungesser, who until now had not been identified to the world outside Columbia, is the student who sparked Emma Sulkowicz's mattress protest, "Carry That Weight." Sulkowicz has been carrying around her blue mattress on campus to call attention to Columbia's failure to punish Nungesser for allegedly raping her and assaulting two other women. Nungesser tells the Times that the mattress protest is an "act of bullying." Per the Times:
He says that he is innocent, and that the same university that found him "not responsible" has now abdicated its own responsibility, letting mob justice overrule its official procedures. The mattress project is not an act of free expression, he adds; it is an act of bullying, a very public, very personal and very painful attack designed to hound him out of Columbia. And it is being conducted with the university's active support. "There is a member of the faculty that is supervising this," he said. "This is part of her graduation requirement."
Sulkowicz accused Nungesser of hitting her, pinning her down, and raping her in August 2012. Another student accused Nungesser of following her upstairs at a party and groping her until she managed to push him off. Yet another student accused him of "intimate partner violence," including emotional abuse and non-consensual sex. The three women filed complaints against Nungesser with Columbia once they heard about each other's stories.
"People were like, maybe this is a misunderstanding," he said of Ms. Sulkowicz's charges. "But the matter of the fact is it's not a misunderstanding." He insists they had completely consensual sex. "What was alleged was the most violent rape, and that did not happen."
As for groping, he says he attended the party but never went upstairs. And intimate partner violence? "Outside of a forced marriage or kidnapping, it just seems very hard to believe that a person would over and over again put themselves in a situation where they could expect this kind of behavior to occur."
Through a series of "procedural errors and delays," Columbia failed to find Nungesser responsible for any of his alleged crimes. His accusers say the system was biased against them, and now Sulkowicz continues to protest and inspire similar protests on campuses across the country.
Nungesser, meanwhile, maintains that he is a supporter of women. "My mother raised me as a feminist," he says, "and I'm someone who would like to think of myself as being supportive of equal rights for women."
Barring any further action by Columbia, Nungesser and Sulkowicz will graduate together in May.
[Photo of Sulkowicz via Getty]