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Standing up to victim-blaming: Slutwalk Toronto

We have a lot to learn from efforts underway across the globe, and we’ll be featuring some of these efforts over the coming months.  Here’s our first.

We’ve seen a lot of victim blaming in the media lately — the New York Times blaming an 11 year old girl in Texas for being raped even garnered national attention  It’s rare that people take to the streets to protest victim-blaming, but that’s exactly what organizers in Toronto, Canada have done.

On April 3, over 1500 people rallied for the very first Toronto Slutwalk. Why a Slutwalk?  In response to victim-blaming by none other than the Toronto Police. On January 24th, a police representative told a group of students at York University that they could avoid sexual assault if they didn’t dress like “sluts.”  That’s right — once again, blaming young women for the violence they experience.

Here’s what the Slutwalk organizers have to say:

On January 24th, 2011, a representative of the Toronto Police gave shocking insight into the Force’s view of sexual assault by stating: “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”.

As the city’s major protective service, the Toronto Police have perpetuated the myth and stereotype of ‘the slut’, and in doing so have failed us. With sexual assault already a significantly under-reported crime, survivors have now been given even less of a reason to go to the Police, for fear that they could be blamed. Being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim.

So on April 3, people of all backgrounds gathered in Toronto’s Queens Park and chanted,

“Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no.”

Right on.  One thing that’s great about this effort is that the organizers have refused to accept the individual police officer’s apology as an appropriate response, and are instead demanding systemic change.

The organizers are now supporting Slutwalks across Canada and even in the US — walks are scheduled for Boston, Dallas and Seattle.   What do you think?  Should Chicago be on the list?

Photo credits: Lyndsy D

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