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Posts Tagged ‘SlutWalk’

End victim blamingLaura Graham is a Lecturer in Law at Durham Law School and co-convenor of Gender and Law at Durham, and Michael Passaro is a member of Gender and Law at Durham.

Trigger Warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault.

Today a number of anti-rape and anti-harassment groups have called for an International Day Against Victim Blaming, marking the two-year anniversary of the first ever Slutwalk on April 3rd 2011 in Toronto, Canada. Slutwalk began as a protest against a remark made during a campus safety information session at Osgoode Hall Law School by Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police officer, that women could avoid sexual assault by not ‘dressing like sluts’. Clearly, this message places the onus on women to take measures not to be raped. This message is hardly new – we receive it all the time through from the media, from women-focused ‘rape prevention tips’, from MPs and celebrities. In fact, this victim blaming attitude is so pervasive that in a 2005 Amnesty International survey found that 26% of respondents thought that a woman was wholly or partially responsible for her rape if she was wearing ‘sexy or revealing’ clothing; and 30% of respondents thought she was wholly or partially responsible for her rape if she was drunk. Yet, the overt victim blaming from someone in a position of responsibility and authority caused such outrage that it provoked a march in protest, the first of many in a movement which spread globally. While there have been many valid criticisms of the Slutwalk movement (in particular, that ‘slut’ is so entrenched in misogyny that it cannot be reclaimed, and that Slutwalk ignored the different impact the term ‘slut’ and its ‘reclamation’ has on women of colour), the message that victims/survivors of rape should never be blamed is one that should be taken seriously. This message deserves recognition all year long, not just on this day.

However, given that today marks International Day Against Victim Blaming, we wanted to discuss an incident that has been receiving a lot of press coverage in the US, but which has been surprisingly underreported in the UK. This is the case of Jane Doe in Steubenville, Ohio, a shocking example of victim blaming if ever there was one.

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Black Women’s Blueprint have posted on its blog and on facebook this “Open Letter from Black Women to the Slutwalk”.

An Open Letter from Black Women to the SlutWalk,

September 23, 2011

We the undersigned women of African descent and anti-violence advocates, activists, scholars, organizational and spiritual leaders wish to address the SlutWalk. First, we commend the organizers on their bold and vast mobilization to end the shaming and blaming of sexual assault victims for violence committed against them by other members of society. We are proud to be living in this moment in time where girls and boys have the opportunity to witness the acts of extraordinary women resisting oppression and challenging the myths that feed rape culture everywhere.

The police officer’s comments in Toronto that ignited the organizing of the first SlutWalk and served to trivialize, omit and dismiss women’s continuous experiences of sexual exploitation, assault, and oppression are an attack upon our collective spirits.  Whether the dismissal of rape and other violations of a woman’s body be driven by her mode of dress, line of work, level of intoxication, her class, and in cases of Black and brown bodies—her race,  we are in full agreement that no one deserves to be raped.

The Issue At Hand

We are deeply concerned. As Black women and girls we find no space in SlutWalk, no space for participation and to unequivocally denounce rape and sexual assault as we have experienced it.  We are perplexed by the use of the term “slut” and by any implication that this word, much like the word “Ho” or the “N” word should be re-appropriated. (more…)

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Nikki Godden (blog editor)

No doubt many of you will have read in the news over the last few days about ‘SlutWalk’, a new string of anti-rape marches. The SlutWalk movement grew as a response to Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti’s comments to a group of students at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto:

‘You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here – I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.’ (more…)

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