Last weekend in Toronto, where I live, a reported 1,000 people marched together in the first-ever SlutWalk. The campaign was a response to a comment made at a local university by a police officer, who said women should avoid “dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” The police have since apologized for the officer’s comment, but it still hit hard with the organizers of SlutWalk.
The idea of SlutWalk spread to two other Canadian cities over this past weekend. I unfortunately worked during the walk in Toronto, but many of my friends were out walking. While they said the walk was mainly positive, there were some groups of men holding signs reading things as “slut after-party.” Because unfortunately the idea that women who dress in a certain way bring negative attention onto themselves and are setting themselves up to be a target is still considered a valid idea by some people.
Why are we still blaming the victim? While women are taught to do all things possible to avoid being raped, our culture is still lacking a don’t rape message. While the White Ribbon campaign and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes are a step in the right direction, it’s clearly not enough. Just look at the frat boys from Yale who were made to chant ‘no means yes.’
Or how about when an 11-year-old gang-rape victim is blamed for dressing older than her age by a politician. If a victim, who is truly only a child, is being shamed, why on earth would anyone want to report a sexual assault. Though this might not be the entire reason, the U.S. Justice Department released a study in 2005 showing that 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.
Preventing sexual assault needs to move past the victim. When you hear that Take Back the Night has been happening for thirty-three years, you realize that many issues revolving around sexual assault are seen as responsibilities of the victim. Women should avoid walking alone at night, women should be careful about their drinks at the bar, and women should watch how they dress. When according to RAINN, 38 percent of rape victims know their attacker, is this really enough?
How do we change the attitudes around sexual assault? When will we stop blaming the victim and start blaming the rapist?