"SlutWalk" marchers promote social justice for sexual assault survivors


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Macomb, sophomore, Kellie Hoehing chants and marches while participating in the Slut walk on Saturday, April 8 in Mount Pleasant, Mich.


 Chants of "no means no" echoed the streets as more than 200 people marched together in the "SlutWalk" April 8.

The national movement was brought to Central Michigan University by the Organization of Women Leaders, a registered student organization on campus. 

“SlutWalk” marches across the country are intended to promote justice for victims of sexual assault while protesting rape culture — the societal attitude that trivializes sexual assault and abuse.

The movement formed in 2011 after a police officer claimed a woman wouldn’t have been raped if she wasn’t dressed like a “slut,” said Brownstown senior Madison Rodriguez-Eberth, president of OWLs.

Protesters marched from the Bovee University Center to downtown Mount Pleasant, holding signs with written phrases such as “don’t blame the victim” and “eliminate male entitlements.”

Downtown, they listened to speakers share personal stories about sexual assault and describe how they didn’t let the experience oppress them. Many used poetry to express their feelings.

“Humanity,” a traveling dance group that promotes social justice and originates from CMU, also performed downtown.

The dancers appeared with derogatory terms taped on their outfits, such as “whore,” “dyke” and “psycho.” Throughout the show, they ripped the labels off and unveiled shirts underneath that read “human.”

Sarah Van Howe said she participated in “SlutWalk” because she was sexually abused two years ago and ever since has been passionate about abolishing victim blaming and rape culture.

“I don’t want to see other people go through what I went through,” the Aurora, Illinois sophomore said. “(Sexual assault) gets brushed under the rug. People don’t want to accept that it’s here. By (marching), we’re (saying) ‘Hey this could happen to anyone.’”

Cadillac senior Brittany McKay held a sign in the crowd that read “I was 5 when it happened, tell me I was asking for it. I dare you”.

McKay said she gets angry when she hears people blame the victim for assault by making assumptions based on the way they present themselves.

“People (don’t) realize how often it happens,” McKay said. “Us doing this really does spread awareness. It does happen on our campus and around our town.”

CMU students were not the only attendees. People from other towns also joined the rally, such as Amy Schindorf, a resident of Farwell who used to live in Mount Pleasant.

Schindorf has been supporting the cause since she was young, and brought her daughter to the march to continue a tradition of promoting social awareness at a young age.

"I went to Take Back the Night marches with my mother,” Schindorf said. “We’ve been supporting this cause (since then). I’m in my 40s now and we continue to support it. I can’t believe we still (need) to march for (assault justice). It’s not a problem with one particular person, or gender or sexual orientation — everyone has the right to say ‘no.’”

Rodriguez-Eberth said she was not planning to speak at the event but felt so moved by the other speakers she wanted to share her story.

“I am not ashamed of who I am and what happened to me,” Rodriguez-Eberth said. “I’m proud of my accomplishments, I’m proud of everyone here today, my organization, all of you. This is incredible. This is what (SlutWalk) is about.”



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