Sexual violence is an epidemic in today’s society. Government research has suggested that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. This brings about the questions: What are we doing to prevent assault and to help our population heal from past experiences?
Born in 2011 after a Toronto police officer implied a woman was responsible for her assault given her choice of clothing, the Slutwalk is one such opportunity for healing. It is a rally for all people, regardless of race, gender, or identiy to raise awareness and combat societal myths on the issue of sexual violence. It addresses the important idea that assault is the perpetrator’s fault, that survivors are not to blame for their experiences.
With the 3rd annual Edmonton Slutwalk approaching quickly, I got a chance to speak about the Edmonton Slutwalk with Danielle Paradis, an organizer of this year’s walk.
What is the Slutwalk?
It is a walk to raise awareness on victim blaming and rape myths – the things we commonly hear in society about how women ask to be sexually assaulted. Myths around alcohol consumption and past promiscuity are common in our society. About 82% of survivors know their perpetrators, which highlights a misconception, as a lot of myths and tips given to women are based on the idea that most assaults are stranger assaults.
This year’s theme is based on consent. We’re trying to make it easier for men and women to understand what consent is. Many people think it is a blurred line but it’s really not.
Why do we still need the Slutwalk?
There are many reasons. Things in the news and high profile cases this year (such as the Rehtaeh Parsons case) have outlined the need to raise awareness on this issue. The Slutwalk isn’t the only way to raise awareness on the issue of sexual violence, but it is definitely useful.
Is there anything different about this year’s Slutwalk?
This year we have been sponsored by the Edmonton Small Press Association, which allows us more freedom and versatility. For example, we have been conducting small art workshops this week to make signs for the walk. The workshops were free to the public and allowed people to come meet the organizers of the Slutwalk and make posters and banners for the event. This year we also reached out to a lot of indigenous communities as we want to address the issue of inclusion. We also have live music this year by Lascaux Proxy, who has created music specifically for the Slutwalk. We are trying a variety of new things to help create a community so the discussion of sexual violence can continue throughout the year.
What have you found to be challenging about organizing the Slutwalk?
Because of the Men’s Rights Activism posters, the Slutwalk organizers have had to spend a lot of time countering opposing ideas. We have a team of about 7 people that have been able to rely on each other through this. We’ve spread accountability and have a great core of people making sure the messaging is on target and reaches people. Tiny details have also come up to work on, like ensuring there are enough sticks for signs and such, but they also just meant that we are getting close to the day.
What have you found to be the most rewarding aspect about organizing the Slutwalk?
The reason I agreed to organize is because this issue really means something to a lot of people. There are people that come and share their stories that maybe haven’t had the chance or ability to share before. People find this a place to heal at. I think it make it worthwhile, a tangible way to help someone heal from their experiences.
What do you hope the Slutwalk will accomplish?
I hope we can raise awareness on what consent is and looks like, and particularly the high standards of what consent is in Canada. We want to address slut-shaming, as it gives women a negative view of themselves and each other and is another form of victim blaming. I want people to have a sense of community, to know that whatever they are going through, there are people that really care.
People of all gender expressions, sexual orientations, and identities are welcome to take part in the Edmonton Slutwalk being held on July 27th at noon on the steps of the Legislature. For more information, please click here.
CC Photograph Courtesy of Slutwalk Edmonton.