Students gathered from across campus to make signs protesting rape culture. Photo by Faith Delamarter.
LILY O’CONNOR | STAFF REPORTER | email@example.com
The Butler Survivor Alliance (BSA) and the Gender Equity Movement (GEM) hosted Butler’s first SlutWalk — a transnational movement that protests against the slut-shaming of sexual assault victims — on Oct. 29. Over 20 students participated in the protest, walking from Atherton Union down Hampton Drive wearing costumes to fit the Halloween theme.
Participants were encouraged to wear clothing that made them feel their most confident. Some people chose more modest costumes, while some chose more revealing ones. A Butler University Police Department officer walked alongside the protesters to ensure that they felt safe. Before the event, BSA and GEM got together to make posters that said anti-rape culture phrases such as “my clothes do not equal my consent.” During the walk, they chanted, yelled and stopped pedestrians to hand them candy and free condoms.
The SlutWalk movement began in April of 2011 in Canada after a Toronto police officer suggested that women should stop “dressing like sluts” to avoid being sexually assaulted. Since then, the movement has spread all over the U.S.. Walks are typically held on college campuses.
Sophie Knue, a junior sociology, criminology and music triple major and president of BSA, had the idea to bring the SlutWalk movement to campus last year. She had experience with being slut-shamed on campus after filing a Title IX case. Since then, she has been working with Jules Grable, director of student advocacy and Sexual Assault Response & Prevention (SARP) specialist, and GEM to organize the SlutWalk.
“I was hurt on campus to the point where I filed a Title IX case, and I was always constantly called a ‘slut’ based on me having that experience,” Knue said. “Sometimes it wasn’t even based on what I was wearing or how I looked, sometimes it was because of what I was wearing. I think it’s so important to have people take back words that are used against them.”
According to Gabrielle Mathus, a junior criminology and psychology double major and vice president of BSA, BSA’s goal is to create a safe space on campus for survivors of sexual assault and to call for an end to victim blaming. The SlutWalk is their first major event as a student organization. Mathus believes that the movement’s message aligns closely with BSA’s.
“The SlutWalk is about empowerment,” Mathus said. “It is a long-standing movement … It has fizzled out more in recent years, but has stayed consistent with its messaging.”
Kiara Somerville, a senior computer science and economics double major and president of GEM, said Knue and BSA recruited GEM to help with supplies, resources and logistics of the event because they are a more established club that had access to the Efroymson Diversity Center (DC) resources.
“BSA had the idea because [the SlutWalk] has a lot to do with their club’s mission,” Somerville said. “Last semester GEM did a Take Back the Night Walk, so we are a little bit more experienced on how to organize an event like this. GEM also has more resources when it comes to the poster boards and stuff because we’re supported by the Diversity Center. BSA put in a lot of work, and GEM was here to collaborate and to support.”
Take Back the Night is a worldwide movement similar to SlutWalk that calls for an end to sexual violence of all kinds. It centers around the idea that women feel unsafe walking alone at night out of fear of being sexually assaulted, stalked, harassed or kidnapped.
“There’s that idea that a man can walk at 2 a.m. by himself and be [safe],” Somerville said. “A woman walking at 2 a.m. by herself is going to be more afraid. Take Back the Night is a walk to take the night back for women and show that we are no longer afraid, and we are ready to fight back.”
According to Knue and Somerville, GEM and BSA hope that this walk encourages all students on campus to stand up against sexual violence. They want to empower students to wear what makes them feel comfortable, but also recognize that wearing revealing clothing can put people in harm’s way, so the walk is to call attention to that fact.
“[The SlutWalk’s] purpose is to raise awareness that rape culture and sexual assault does happen on this campus and that it’s a problem that needs to be solved and addressed by both the students and the campus administrators,” Somerville said. “We need to make sure that everyone on campus is safe to be who they are, dress how they want to dress and live life as they so choose.”