Slut Walk empowers survivors of sexual assault

By Samantha Calderon
0
84
views
Participants of Slut Walk march across campus wearing clothing that empowers them, as well as holding signs that call out rape culture. Photo by Samantha Calderon.

A group of students marched around campus chanting, “Whatever we wear, wherever we go! ‘yes’ means yes and ‘no’ means no!” On Thursday, April 26, approximately 40 students who are either survivors of sexual assault or are allies participated in the annual Slut Walk at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). The event is a march and open mic for people of all genders against sexual harassment and slut shaming to come together.

Slut Walk started in Canada in 2011 after a police officer stated, “women should avoid dressing like sluts” if they do not want to subject themselves to sexual assault. According to the Slut Walk website, Slut Walk is “…a transnational movement of protest marches calling for an end to rape culture, including victim blaming and slut shaming of sexual assault victims. Specifically, participants protest against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance.”

Michelle Vazquez, a Business major, said, “I feel like Slut Walk promotes a safe space for sexual assault survivors. It also promotes more awareness of gender equity. It is a powerful space of support where survivors can feel empowered and heal.” Vazquez said that Slut Walk is a direct resistance to rape culture, and that it is important that the CSUMB community come together in support of sexual assault survivors.

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 23 percent of females and five percent of males experience rape or sexual assault through violence or incapacitation in college at the undergraduate level. Only 20 percent of female survivors in college report sexual assault to law enforcement. 21 percent of Transgender and gender non-conforming students have been sexually assaulted, a higher rate compared to cisgender individuals.

Isaac Castillo, a Humanities and Communication major and member of Associated Students said, “I think what this event means to me is that this is a chance for men— especially heterosexual man—to become allies with members of the opposite sex who have been oppressed, discriminated, and traumatized by rape culture. This is it just something that any male shouldn’t brush off lightly. This is a chance for people to understand that there are unjust consequences for the type of behavior that is expected in society.”

Castillo was one of the handful of men at the event, and is a Feminist ally. “I think our campus, and any other campus, should have events like this because it definitely helps an individual who may be traumatized go through the healing process. Often, we are told that talking about things make things easier, but in situations like this, these ‘things’ demand some more attention, more outrage, and more courage. This event allows people to heal as well as become stronger in the long run. Even if you have not been assaulted or shamed, it is beneficial for someone to no longer become a bystander,” said Castillo.

Survivors of sexual assault hold the system accountable for not taking more action against perpetrators. Photo by Samantha Calderon.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network states that more than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur in the months of August-November, which is back-to-school season. At CSUMB, three rape cases were reported in less than three weeks between late September and early October in 2017. Compared to larger campuses, these statistics might not sound as alarming to some; however, given CSUMB’s student body of less than 8,000 students, this news was horrifying to the majority of campus. The onslaught of sexual assaults prompted CSUMB to take a more aggressive approach, as the school sent out an email providing the name, photo and even the patterns of the perpetrator. The email read, “If you see this person on-campus, report it immediately to the University Police Department by dialing (831) 655-0268. Be prepared to give his location.”

Elizabeth Laney, Clinical Lead at the Personal Growth & Counseling Center (PGCC) said the Slut Walk is necessary because, “It is important to raise awareness because sexual assault is often stigmatized. The event provides support to people who are both ready to speak out, and those who are not ready to speak out about their experiences.” Laney said it is okay if survivors do not feel ready to come forward with their story, since it is a process. The PGCC provides survivors with outreach workshops, individual services and group therapy services through the Sexual Trauma Survivors Group. Laney said it is essential to connect survivors to a supportive space.

Participants of the Slut Walk took over campus as they screamed phrases such as, “It’s a dress not a yes!” and “S-L-U-T that is not me!” The participants marched inside the library and the Business and Information Technology building. This was the first time the participants were allowed to chant inside the buildings, as they have marched quietly inside buildings in past years. Participants said that their message must be heard.

The event closed with survivors of sexual assault going on stage for an open mic to share their stories to empower others. There was not a moment of silence, as several survivors took the stage to shut down rape culture. The survivors were met with warm applause and praise.

CSUMB has a Campus Advocate, an individual who serves as a confidential survivor advocate from Monterey Rape Crisis Center. Campus Advocate serves both students and faculty, and is available Monday-Friday from 9a.m.-5p.m. by call or text at (831) 402-9477, as well as at the PGCC, building 80. More information can be found at csumb.edu/campusadvocate. Survivors are never alone.

Leave a Reply