About 150 students gathered on Fairfield Way at the University of Connecticut to confront rape culture as part of the UConn SlutWalk: A March to End Victim Blaming on Friday afternoon.
The SlutWalk is a protest and march followed by a speakout session organized by the student group Revolution Against Rape (RAR).
Students marched around campus holding signs and chanting sayings including “Whatever we wear/Wherever we go/Yes means yes/And no means no,” and “Claim our bodies/Claim our rights/Take a stand/Take back the night.”
Signs read “Silence is not consent,” “She’s only asking for it if she’s asking for it,” and “Stop blaming alcohol, start blaming rapists.”
RAR president Megan Burke said the ultimate goal of SlutWalk is to change the way people think about sexual assault.
“Our main goal is to end rape culture, is to end the idea that a victim is in any way responsible for sexual assault,” Burke said.
Morgan Reiss, secretary of RAR, said the SlutWalk is important, especially on college campuses, because it brings awareness to the issue of sexual assault in a unique way.
“Actually marching around campus with signs, saying this is an issue, this happens here, and it needs to stop, hopefully catches a lot more people’s attention,” Reiss said.
The speakout session is a part of the SlutWalk where anyone can take a microphone and share their experiences related to sexual assault.
Some expressed frustration, others expressed hope, but all showed support for one another.
Speakers said “I’m so sorry and it is not your fault,” and “Never think that you’re not important.”
Speakers were female and male. Some were affected personally by sexually assault, others shared stories of close friends or family. Some students spoke just to express their frustration with rape culture and victim blaming.
RAR vice president Diane Hassanieh said the name “SlutWalk” is designed to take the power away from victim blaming.
“It’s all about reclaiming the term ‘slut’ and not letting people use it as an abusive term,” Hassanieh said.
Burke talked about the Stanford rape case concerning Brock Turner and how the represents the bigger problem of rape culture in America.
“People were focusing on his comfort when he raped someone, and the victim will have to live with that for the rest of their life,” Burke said.
Clare Liu, a sixth-semester human development and family studies major, attended the SlutWalk last year and noticed a larger male representation at this year’s event.
“This definitely isn’t just a female issue and it’s not something that only females should care about,” Liu said.
State Representative Gregg Haddad and Connecticut Senator Mae Flexer also spoke at the SlutWalk about the legislative work they’ve been doing to better protect survivors of sexual assault.
Haddad and Flexer both worked to pass laws that hold affirmative consent as the standard in college sexual assault cases across the state of Connecticut.
“It’s something that has to happen in a lot of other states across the country in order for us to have a real impact but we can feel a little bit safer here knowing that’s the standard that will be applied on campus when we are dealing with sexual assault,” Haddad said.
Connecticut is only one of three states in the nation to have affirmative consent laws in place when dealing with college sexual assault cases, Haddad said.
Flexer credited UConn students with helping to push affirmative consent legislation through the state.
“You are all at the forefront of creating change on these issues and your voices have really had a huge impact and your voices will continue to be valuable as we go forward,” Flexer said.
Schae Beaudoin is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.