Slutwalk London: The radical notion that nobody deserves to be raped.
On 11th June 2011, SlutWalk came to London. Thousands of people of different races, genders, sexualities, classes and occupations came together to protest the silencing of our voices, the repression of our choices and the violence against our bodies. The word ‘slut’ carries a history of assault, shaming, insults and degradation, where women are forced to remain silent about their assault through a society and legal system which all too often places the blame on the victim. But those who came to SlutWalk were far from silent and ashamed. As much as SlutWalk was a direct challenge to the attitudes and practises which allow rape to continue in society, it was a celebration of our bodies, identities and choices, and an affirmation of our commitment to continuing the long struggle towards a world without assault.
Today, we are asking you to join with us for SlutWalk 2012. We need to continue the pressure we have put on those who would allow sexual assault and victim blaming to continue and welcome the silencing of those who are raped. The courts and police stations are still dismissing women’s reports of assault, losing crucial evidence or twisting the facts to render the victim responsible for their own assault - while as many as 95% of cases go unreported. In a worsening economic climate, people are being made more vulnerable to sexual violence by poverty, unemployment and drastic cuts to services for women - whether they be youth services, rape crisis centres or benefits to disabled women. Sex workers - a group especially vulnerable to sexual assault - still live in fear of reporting sexual assault lest they be persecuted by police or lose their livelihood through the closing of premises. Undocumented immigrants are still unable to report sexual assault for fear of imprisonment and deportation, making them easily exploitable. Sexual assault is often ignored or misunderstood in LGBTQ communities, where people face intrusive scrutiny over how they express themselves. We are asking you to join with us to continue fighting against sexual assault, slut shaming and victim blaming - and to recognise the racism, homophobia and class oppression which leave us more vulnerable.
There is one unifying factor in the language of those who are anti-woman and pro-rape: rape doesn’t happen. We were asking for it. We changed our minds the next morning. We were lying to get one over on our attackers. Men ‘can’t’ be raped. It wasn’t ‘proper’ rape. We deserved it. We secretly enjoyed it. Our partner did it, so it doesn’t count. We were dressed in such a way to be responsible for the violence. SlutWalk came out of a long movement against this attitude, and our voices are louder and clearer than ever. We invite you to march with us again in 2012, and organise with us in the months leading up to the march. We will not be silenced.
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Statements from our supporters and from organisations we work with:
“I am marching because my best friend still thinks that her rape was her fault, because the authorities never looked into it, and because it will always haunt her. And that is not okay.” - anonymous supporter
“We are not victims. We were victims, for a moment in time. Now, we are survivors.” - Emily Jacob, supporter
“Whatever I wear, however I act, as a woman, there is always the possibility that I will be deemed a ‘slut’” - Rosa, supporter
“Believe it or not, not one of us is dressing for anyone other than ourselves.” - Kelly, supporter
“I will be on the Slutwalk to help make visible the many ways in which we women of colour have been abused by those who want to justify our rape and exploitation. In the UK and across the globe, women of colour face racist and sexist violence. Women of African descent have always been considered sex objects, perpetually available to white men. The police are too often not responsive to any rape survivors, but even less so if we are women of colour. I’ll be marching along with other Black and immigrant sisters, with white sisters, and with men who support us, to break down the barriers which divide us. Either we are all sluts or none of us is.” - Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project
“Since 1976 we have been campaigning for all rape to be taken seriously. The anti-rape movement has shifted public opinion and won changes to the rape law and to prosecution policies. But implementation is still appalling. Only 6.5% of reported rape leads to a conviction. While most rapists get away with it, we face an increasing trend towards jailing rape victims accused of lying after a negligent and biased investigation into their rape. The organisers of Slutwalk London are determined that this movement be inclusive and make concrete demands.” - Women Against Rape
“How many of us have been unable to report violent attacks for fear of criminalisation, deportation or losing our anonymity? How many of us have been told by police we will be disbelieved and even arrested if we report? How many of us have been prosecuted when we did report while our attackers went free? We face criminalisation for trying to make a living and moralism from women who call themselves feminists, who claim that all prostitution is violence against women and that all immigrant sex workers are trafficked. Whether on the street or in premises, we are being driven further underground and into more danger. SlutWalk is another confirmation that people are really with us for an end to criminalisation and poverty everywhere.” - English Collective of Prostitutes
“All over the world women experience sexual violence, displacement, torture, feminicide and kidnap but the needs, realities, experiences and perspectives of women are often excluded from consideration. When women’s voices are not heard, women’s needs are ignored. When women are marginalised and excluded from power, men think it’s okay to say things like ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.’ We believe that you can’t build peace by leaving half of the people out. No women, no peace.” - Chitra Nagarajan, No Women No Peace
“As disabled people, as children, we are vulnerable to violence from people we know, in the family and in institutions. We are not supposed to have a sex life, but we are often sexually exploited by the men around us. Did we provoke it? Did we dress like sluts? As women with disabilities, as single mothers, we have fought to have an income – so that we are not at the mercy of partners and family for our survival. That is being taken away from us. We are being driven back into dependence by the cuts in benefits, housing and services.” - WinVisible (Women With Visible and Invisible Disabilities)
“In Britain, the release of an official report declaring that girls are being too “sexualised” has coincided with parliamentary lobbies for young women to be “taught to say no”. Join the dots with police officers telling women that “no” is insufficient if they happen not to be dressed like a nun and an ugly picture begins to form. Young women, in particular, are expected to look hot and available at all times, but if we dare to express desires of our own, we are mocked, shamed and threatened with sexual violence, which, apparently, has nothing to do with the men who inflict it and everything to do with the length of skirt we have on. Now, more than ever, it’s time for “sluts” to walk - and walk tall.” - Laurie Penny
After walking around West Hollywood Park and seeing young women holding signs that referenced their childhood rapes, it was difficult to think of a single reason why SlutWalk wasn’t important or meaningful and I felt my reservations about the movement sliding away. Speaking to attendees like Mandy Burgundy, a 34-year-old trans woman who is harassed daily because of her style of dress, or Lillian Behrendt, a 21-year-old who bravely admitted to being sexually assaulted three times, really put things into perspective. Behrendt actually wasn’t going to attend the event, but as she read more about it, it began to feel more personal.
“Every time I was raped, it felt like my fault,” Behrendt said. “When I was first raped at the age of eight, that was the conclusion that I came to, but no one said it was my fault. Because of the culture we live in, I knew instinctively to blame myself for what happened. Victim blaming in not acceptable, it doesn’t matter who the victim is. Slut shaming is not ok, all it does is support and perpetuate rape culture. I’m doing this for personal reasons. Maybe I don’t unanimously support the SlutWalk message, but this is a start for a lot of us.”