Across the UK people are marching to highlight the need for more balance advice when it comes to preventing rape and sexual assault.
SlutWalk is a march that has taken inspiration from an event that took place earlier this year in Toronto, Canada. The first SlutWalk was organised after a Toronto police officer told a group of law students that in order to avoid being raped ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts’.
Backlash from this ‘helpful’ advice has lead to this movement to challenge the default social position of “Don’t get raped” and replace it with “Don’t rape”.
The Guardian has an extensive comment from SlutWalk Cardiff co-organiser Beccy Pert about the motivations behind a new movement where she highlights:
We’ve all heard the phrases: ‘she was asking for it, dressed like that’, ‘he was drunk – he only had himself to blame’. When it comes to cases of rape and sexual assault, there seems to be a disturbing cultural tendency to make excuses for the attacker.
Although commendable for its message to stop blaming the victims and highlighting that it is rapists that choose to rape, the choice of phrasing has left a lot of awareness raising groups split about their support of the event.
The F-word blog raises a number of points both for and against the walk:
I fully support the sentiment behind and the aims of the event, and think this approach actually makes more sense than a “reclaim the night” march in some ways, given that the focus on “night” – for me at least – inadvertently reaffirms the idea that the streets at night are dangerous for women, when those of us who attend RTNs all know that women are statistically most at risk of violence in our own homes with men we know, and young men are actually more at risk of violence on the streets.
The message from this movement is an extension of the internet meme from a few years ago that offered a number of rape and assault prevention tips, for example:
8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
Marches are taking place across the UK in June 2011, and while many might not agree with the attempt to reclaim such a loaded and derogatory word, or want to dress like a slut to highlight the need for a wholesale attitudinal change when it comes to rape and sexual assault prevention, the message is an important one and shouldn’t get lost because of a focus on the way in which it is delivered.