Slutwalk. If you haven’t heard the term yet, it’s more than likely that you will soon. What started as a protest against one Toronto policeman’s sharp swerve into idiocy has spawned a world-wide uprising.
The phenomenon hits my hometown of Brisbane on Saturday, May 28 and at the time of writing this already over 1000 people have signed up to the facebook event. I’ll be there, surrounded by a good collection of friends both male and female because it’s a GOOD cause.
Not that everyone quite understands that. Doing my rounds of the web, as I do, I’ve noticed a frustrating trend: trailing in the wake of every news article and facebook page dedicated to the protests are a SLEW of commenters taking the whole thing and running in a completely different direction or worse, just plain “not getting it”.
And the worst thing is, it’s not entirely their fault.
So many of the articles I’ve read - like this one - pin the point of this protest to the most confusing examples. I can see what the writer was trying to say but the message gets lost in a debate of social convention, judgements and - for gods sake - freaking dictionary meanings.
This is NOT about judging people by what they wear - we’re human, we’re taught we shouldn’t (books, covers etc) but it’s going to happen - fact of life. This isn’t even about shaming people for what they wear - as an example: despicable as the act is, I’m positive kids are still going to be teased for dressing nerdier than their classmates.
No - this is about NOT shaming the victims of sexual crimes, for anything - dress, behaviour, decision making - you name it. It just happened to be a comment about “dressing like a slut” that began the whole thing.
Now I’ve seen a lot of people - yes, not just a few - respond to this with a resounding WHY? They say: “We judge people if they drive stupidly and crash their car - or if they leave their house unlocked and get robbed. With none of these crimes do we mitigate the actions of the perpetrator so why should sexual assault be treated any differently?”
So many times I’ve read those exact words these past couple of days: “Why should sexual assault be treated any differently?”
This is about when most of the people doing the explaining a) throw their hands in the air at the perceved stupidity of their fellow humans and/or b) start insulting said fellow humans for their perceived unfeeling regard for the victims.
But here’s the thing. To anyone who hasn’t taken the time to understand the effects of sexual assault, the above statement really doesn’t seem like the callous insult so many people take it as. They don’t understand how a cop in Toronto telling young woman not to “invite danger” is a bad thing - if girls only heeded these suggestions wouldn’t there be less rape?
Pause. Rewind. Repeat: “Less rape.”
It’s the one thing everyone can agree on - preventing rape is a good thing. With that in mind, I’ll step away from the argument about victim rights - not because it’s not important but because so many others have written far more effectively about it.
No, I’ll approach this from a different perspective: unfeeling logic.
Using the above examples - if a person were to prang their car because they were driving stupidly they’d feel foolish. If someone left their house unlocked and were robbed - same story. In both cases society would do the equivalent of shake their heads at the victim’s obvious stupidity/naivety and the worst that would happen to the victim (as a generalised example) would be they learn their lesson: don’t drive like a moron and learn to lock up.
With Sexual assault however you add a whole truck-load of other emotional and psychological factors. It’s a well known and documented fact that most sexual assaults are never reported - this is due to a number of factors but chief among them is shame. The victim already has an often-times crippling sense of self-blame - “I was drinking - I walked home alone - I wore a short skirt - I was flirting” - which all culminate in one thought: “I brought it on myself.”
To have those factors pointed out to them by others, PARTICULARLY police or authority figures (as is what happened in Toronto) can and often DOES mean the difference between a victim of sexual assault coming forward and reporting the crime or simply burying it.
Best case scenario, the victim is forced to deal with what has happened to them alone - a horrific experience as anyone who has been through such things will tell you. But the worst case - and the one I want to stress here: the perpetrator of the assault re-offends - another person is victimised and the whole process starts over again.
Even if someone were an unfeeling monster - and yes, I’ve read a few pieces from them as well - even THEY have to appreciate the cause and effect here.
Victims of sexual assault and abuse are fighting an uphill battle already with everything that’s happened to them. Adding to the shame and humiliation they already feel is not only a disgusting way to treat a fellow human being, it directly contributes to the perpetrators of sexual crimes going unpunished for their actions.
That - at the very least, I think we can all agree - is NOT acceptable.
And that is why on Saturday, May 28 I’ll be Slutwalking. Not for the rights of women to dress like sluts - but for the rights of women to dress however they want and feel secure in the knowledge that it won’t be used to rationalise sexual assault.
I’ll be walking because blaming the victim is NEVER okay, no matter which way you look at it.