Leah is one of our core group of organizers, here’s what she has to say:
I’ve been following the Slutwalk movement since the first one in Toronto, and I am VERY excited to have been invited to help out with Clevelands!
Slutwalk is important to me because when I was being assaulted, I honestly didn’t know what to call it. Like most kids, I grew up with the understanding that sexual assault is a horrific violation of the mind, body and soul – and that the way it happens is when a woman wears a short skirt outside after dark and a stranger jumps out from the alley and brutally beats her to within in an inch of her life because he glimpsed her upper thigh. Even the (very little) discussion around me concerning so-called ‘Date Rape’ centered on what a woman or girl did to ‘provoke’ the attacker, with lines like “She shouldn’t haven’t been kissing him like that if she didn’t want to get him excited.” and “You can’t touch someone like that and then expect them to stop just because you changed your mind, so girls, remember that!” The take-away was: “If you like to make out, you better be ready for sex, whether you want it or not.” and “If you dress a certain way, you’re just saying that you’re Open for Business, so you deserve what you get.”
“You’re asking for it.”
This is Rape-Culture. Sexual assault not only goes unchallenged when these statements are repeated, it is actively encouraged. It gives the offenders a free pass to reoffend, and keeps the survivors in the dark. Most of all, it gives people a false sense of security: that if we dress the “right” way, walk the “right” way, carry our keys the “right” way, and so on… then we are safe! But no. The reality is that 73% of sexual assaults in this country were perpetrated by a non-stranger; 38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance; 28% are an intimate partner; 7% are a relative.
Intimate-Partner Violence was never discussed much beyond the narrative of “If your partner is giving you black eyes, that’s probably bad”. So it isn’t a surprise that my first sexual relationship was an abusive one. With our culture’s “You deserve what you get” mantra playing in my head, it took me three years to pull myself out of that fog and get out. It took me even longer to define my experience, what was done to me, as a legitimate assault. There was no alley, no unmarked van, no stranger in a ski mask. There was no miniskirt. Just myself, and someone who promised to love me.
I want Slutwalk to speak to the survivors out there. Men, women and children that have internalized the victim-blaming, the apologism, and may still think they don’t deserve help: You do. I did. After years of thinking that I must be doing something wrong… after years of wallowing in internal self-destruction, I finally stopped trying to forgive myself and accepted that I wasn’t the one that needed forgiveness. I hadn’t done anything wrong. And it wasn’t just my partner that had failed me – the adults in my life failed me. Our society as a whole failed me.
What I want most from Slutwalk, what i want it to really accomplish: is to challenge the notion that the responsibility for ending sexual assault belongs on the survivors shoulders. The reality is that NOTHING a person does constitutes ‘inviting’ an assault. Nothing. Every human being on this planet has the right to own their body; it is the person initiating sexual contact that must obtain explicit permission for said contact. If permission is not given, it’s assault. Period.
This isn’t about being sexually attractive or revealing. It just isn’t. This is about violence, hatred, oppression and control, a societal sense of entitlement to others bodies.
The most recent statistical average of unreported assaults is 60%. Approximately 15 out of 16 sexual assault perpetrators will walk free. And while male-identified individuals make up about 10% of assault survivors, they are the LEAST likely to report. The only societal narrative for male-identified survivors falls into the category of “Don’t Drop The Soap” jokes, as if being sexually violated is somehow a reasonable consequence of breaking the law in a ‘civilized’ society. Another victim-blaming favorite – and yet another reason to stand up taller, shout louder, and make the world listen. To US. Survivors, and their allies in the fight against oppresion.
Every gender identity, sexual orientation, age and race is affected by sexual assault. Issues such as class status, systemic racism, homophobia, and other prevalent injustices leave some groups statistically more vulnerable to an assault, and more likely to be left behind in mainstream social justice movements combating oppression. We must not divide each other and fight only our own personal battles. We must not leave anyone behind. We must all come together, stand together, and walk together. We can change this.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1.800.656.HOPE to be connected to a local rape crisis center in your area, or visit the Online Hotline.