Marching and chanting “however we dress, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no,” about 175 students marched in the SlutWalk on Saturday.
The march through campus marks the second annual installment of the national event, and takes aim against sexual assault victim blaming. SlutWalk also supports survivors of sexual assault.
“Slut is one of the most powerful four letter words that I know of,” said Ashley Scheetz, president of the Organization of Women Leaders. “It has the ability to render incredible violence and it also has the ability to bring people together marching and chanting and feeling together like we do today.”
OWLs, a Central Michigan University registered student organization, hosted the event. SlutWalk as a response, first originated in 2011 in Toronto after a police officer said to a group of women that they should avoid dressing like sluts in order to avoid being raped.
Those controversial statements helped inspire a movement, and there have since been many local SlutWalks hosted across the United States and in other countries, such as India and Brazil.
Stephanie Cumper, a Marlette senior and OWLs member, wearing a black dress and fishnets, was one of many students showcasing that ideal.
“The idea that a person can be blamed for being raped based on what they are wearing is ridiculous,” Cumper said. “It doesn’t matter what I wear, (pieces of) clothing are just items to express yourself.”
While the march is part of a national event, the CMU edition had its own flavor and message it wanted to champion, including recent sexual assaults that have happened on-campus throughout the last year.
“Every walk is a little different. Each group adds their own personal touch to it,” Scheetz said. “But one thing has always stayed consistent, and that is that blaming the victim is never okay.”
Scheetz pointed to the multitude of alleged sexual assaults occurring on college campuses around the nation, including the subsequent backlash that survivors face in the wake of bringing complaints forward. She said these occurrences are proof enough that students are not fully aware of an on-campus rape cultures.
“We want to recognize the strength of the survivors on our campus and community and to let them know they are not alone,” Scheetz said.
The walk started in the University Center and proceeded through campus, ending finally back at the UC.
As the participants marched, they hold up signs to such as “Jesus Loves Sluts,” “Rapists Cause Rape, Not Clothes” and “My Clothes are Not Consent.”
They repeated several chants including “Yes means (expletive) me. No means (expletive) you” and “Two, four, six, eight women are sexual and sluts are great.”
Filmmaker, writer and speaker Andrea Bredbeck spoke as the keynote speaker for the event. As a survivor of three separate incidents of rape, she has devoted her life to spreading rape awareness and focuses the life changes that occur after a sexual assault.
Bredbeck spoke to the audience about her experiences, the rape culture, the need to understand the psychology of rapist and the need for advocacy.
Morenci junior Elaina Pruzinsky, another member of OWLs, said that the reactions from onlookers were mixed.
“All people who were watching got excited. Some of the others were a little put off,” Pruzinsky said. “It seems really out there because it so blunt.”
The walk was not geared only toward women, but men who are aligned with the cause of survivor support.
Macomb sophomore Michael Sweet said he volunteered at the SlutWalk along with his some of his other brothers of Theta Pi Iota because it was the right thing to do.
“It’s important to raise rape awareness because a lot of people on college campuses don’t take it seriously and it needs to be,” Sweet said.