Richmond Hosts SlutWalk To Empower Women
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Following a Toronto Police representative suggesting, “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized,” a nation-wide movement ensued to protect victims’ rights. On September 22, Richmond will host their very own.
Osgoode Hall Law School held a safety forum, where Michael Sanguinetti, Toronto Police constable, relayed to a group of students that sexual assault could simply be avoided by not dressing like sluts. The movement demands their voice be acknowledged and understood, for no individual is deserving of sexual assault nor the violent humiliation that ensues. Sexual assault is not about sex, but a mere act of violence and power against an individual’s will.
SlutWalk encompasses women, men, and children of various ages, ethnic backgrounds, and gender identities. Volunteers, supporters, and allies of SlutWalk Richmond seeks to expose the realities of sexual violence, while also diminishing victim-blaming in sexual crimes. Helen Rogers, chairperson and organizer of SlutWalk Richmond, began following the movement’s progress since it hit the news last year. As a survivor of sexual assault, Rogers expresses re-victimization, guilt and society’s discomfort surrounding sexual assault.
“Sexual assaults are underreported and swept under the rug because our society has a discomfort with anything related to sex. Because of that, victims of this particular crime are often made to feel that it is somehow their fault, and that is simply inexcusable,” said Rogers.
Statistics have shown that 1-in-4 women, and 1-and-6 men are sexually assaulted. In order to address this crime, society needs to focus on the assault rather than the sexual aspect. According to Rogers, awareness is crucial, for the lesson is not don’t do, say, or wear something that will get individuals raped, rather don’t perpetrate the crime.
“We need to be teaching more “don’t rape” and less “don’t get raped”. As a community, working together to bring an end to this stigma is essential,” said Rogers.
SlutWalk Richmond 2012 will begin at Monroe Park at 11:30 a.m. September 22, where participants will complete a 2 mile walk up Main Street ending at Fountain Lake in Byrd Park. This symbolic walk begins in Monroe park near Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) campus in honor of victims, who have been affected in the surrounding area. The walk will then proceed up Main Street, where the primary Fan bar district is located, and sexual assaults occur every 2 minutes. This 2 mile walk will end at Fountain Lake, where volunteers, supporters, and allies will metaphorically cleanse the body of the shame they’ve acquired along the journey. This movement is not only to bring awareness to the Richmond community, but heal the mind, body and soul.
“I’m hoping that not only will women find strength to come forward, speak and fight for their rights as a human being, but also know that being sexually assaulted is nothing to be ashamed of. It is important and healthy to discuss and bring awareness to it. Until it is no longer a “taboo” topic, we will not make a difference at bringing an end to this epidemic. There are a lot of survivors out there willing to help them make that first step,” said Rogers.
Rachel Williams is a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University with a calling to be a voice to the voiceless; and passion is to bring gender equality and ethnic justice to the forefront of RVA.
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