Large posters were hung late Tuesday night near Columbia University accusing actress Lena Dunham and Emma Sulkowicz, a student who graduated from the school this week, of lying about their experiences of sexual assault.
Sulkowicz made headlines last September when she began carrying a mattress around campus as part of her visual arts thesis. The 22-year-old student says she was raped in her own bed by a fellow classmate at the start of her sophomore year in 2012. She told TIME the mattress is a symbol of the burden that sexual assault survivors carry around every day, and a protest against the way Columbia handled her rape allegations. (Her alleged attacker is currently suing the school and Sulkowicz’s thesis advisor for making his name public.) Sulkowicz graduated from Columbia on Tuesday, carrying the mattress across the stage with the help of friends.
Images of posters targeting Sulkowicz began circulating on Twitter around 5 am Wednesday from an account set up that day called @fakerape.
The posters were plastered around the Columbia campus, in the subway at 116th street, and on traffic lights and construction walls around Broadway. The majority of posters show an image of Sulkowicz and her mattress, emblazoned with the words “Pretty Little Liar” and the hashtag #rapehoax. Her name is misspelled.
Similar posters also appeared of Lena Dunham, with the caption “Big Fat Liar.” In Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl, released in September 2014, the actress described her experience of sexual assault while she was a student at Oberlin College in Ohio. It led to controversy after the pseudonym and description she gave of her alleged attacker, ‘Barry’, seemed to point to a real Oberlin student called Barry, who studied there at the same time.
In a December essay for Buzzfeed, Dunham explained that she had been “inspired by all the brave women who are now coming forward with their own experiences, despite the many risks associated with speaking out.” On Twitter on Wednesday night, Dunham wished Sulkowicz ‘Happy Graduation’ and expressed her support and gratitude towards the recent graduate.
The people behind the @fakerape account have not publicly identified themselves, but told amNewYork “We want to educate people about fake rape claims & how damaging they are…From UVA to Columbia to UMiami, due process matters.” Blogger Chuck C. Johnson retweeted the photos, but denied any involvement in making the posters.
According to images posted on Twitter, passersby quickly tore down most of the posters.
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