UConn students gathered Friday afternoon on the Student Union square for the UConn Revolution Against Rape SlutWalk, an annual march that aims to end victim blaming and raise sexual assault awareness.
“The two main goals of the event were that we wanted to create a safe space for survivors to share their experiences with the community,” fifth-semester physiology major and event master of ceremonies Lauren Colburn said. “We want people to know that they are not alone.”
Participants marched down Fairfield Way, walked across to the Austin Building, up Glenbrook Road and then back to the Student Union, holding signs with messages including “Hands off until I Say Yes” and “Make Love Not Rape!”
Like last semester’s Take Back the Night march, students performed chants while marching, like “Shatter the silence; stop the violence,” and “Unless you have consent, then rape is your intent.”
After the initial march was a speak-out on the Student Union square, where audience members were encouraged by UConn RAR members to walk up and talk about their experiences with sexual violence. Some students brought up cases of abuse from family members, while others mentioned abusive relationships and talked about the lack of support given to victims by both legal institutions – like police – and even friends.
The event’s title originated from a Toronto sexual violence case in 2011, when Toronto police constable Michael Sanguinetti suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts,” per The Guardian. SlutWalk, named after the term he used, started in Toronto and is now an international and controversial movement of protest marches.
Colburn said she acknowledged that the event’s name would raise a few eyebrows. One particular instance during the event involved a car of people driving by and yelling at marchers. Colburn also mentioned one experience when an older woman told her that the event had a “nasty little name” and repeatedly talked over Colburn trying to explain the event.
However, Colburn said that naming the event “Slutwalk” was an ironic reclamation of the word “slut,” which is often said to demean sexual assault and rape victims’ experiences and place blame on them, rather than rapists. Students, like fifth-semester communications major Maman Cooper concurred, saying that they clearly understood the meaning behind the march’s title.
“People have relation to this can feel empowered by the march’s name,” Cooper said. “This is a reminder to everyone who has been hurt that you don’t have to stay silent.”
UConn RAR president and fifth-semester Spanish and economics major Casey Healey said in a speech before the speak out that SlutWalk ultimately aims to stop rape culture, which she said is a culture that normalizes rape and aims to quiet victims rather than enforce justice on rapists.
“No matter what anyone has told you in the past, present or even future, it was not your fault,” Healey said. “Nobody deserves to be assaulted.”