September 25, 2011

Students March Against Sexual Assault in SlutWalk

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Correction appended

Ithaca’s first SlutWalk, a march to show solidarity against sexual assault and victim blaming, brought together more than a hundred members of the Cornell, Ithaca College and local communities in the Commons on Saturday. The 50 Cornell attendees, organized by Solana Claudio-Albarran ’12, gathered on the Arts Quad. As they walked down to the Commons, Deanna Ping ’12, a member of the Women’s Resource Center Advisory Board, led the group in chants, including, “Yes means yes, no means no, whatever we wear, wherever we go,” “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, you can’t take our rights away” and “A little black dress does not mean yes.”Claudio-Albarran discussed her personal relationship with the issue to a large crowd on the Comons.“I was 14 years old when I was raped. And it’s taken me a while to get to the point where I could actually say it,” she said.

“It’s something I felt so ashamed of and I felt like it was my fault, and I felt like I couldn’t share it with anybody … actually say it,” she said. “It’s something I felt so ashamed of and I felt like it was my fault, and I felt like I couldn’t share it with anybody … I’m not ashamed anymore. It wasn’t my fault, it was him.”The SlutWalk movement began in Toronto in response to a comment made by Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a police officer, on Jan. 24. According to the SlutWalk Toronto website, Sanguinetti said, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”Not only did his comment fuel debate about what advocates describe as a rape culture and victim-blaming in Toronto, but the Toronto SlutWalk was quickly followed by walks throughout the country and as far as India, Iceland and South Africa, according to the SlutWalk Toronto website.“The SlutWalk is designed to raise awareness in the issue of sexual violence and in particular, the victim-blaming that often goes along with it,” said Laura Weiss, the director of Cornell Women’s Resource Center. “[Survivors of sexual assault] not only bear the burden of the violence, but they also take on the additional burden of people telling them, ‘It was your fault.’”Claudio-Albarran, the organizer of Cornell’s group, expressed surprise at the turnout, saying, “I only expected three people — me and my two friends — to be participating. But I am really impressed.”As the marchers made their way to the Commons, some onlookers shouted words of encouragement. Participants passed out informational material about the SlutWalk to people passing by.The Cornell attendees joined the a larger group of representatives from Ithaca College and the local community at the heart of the Commons in downtown Ithaca. Emily Stoner, Ithaca College ’11, organized the SlutWalk Ithaca, in which Cornell had a subgroup. She first heard about the Slutwalk movement from a friend in Los Angeles, who participated in SlutWalk LA. Stoner said that she was initially “turned off” to the movement because of the use of the word “slut.”“It was only when I learned about what the movement was really about that I started to support it,” Stoner said at the Sept. 15 SlutTalk, a meeting on Cornell campus to address questions and concerns prior to the march.While many people responded to the word “slut” positively, appropriating it for the cause, some students shared Stoner’s original reaction. “I support the cause, but I don’t know if I want to participate because I don’t think I’ll be comfortable being there with people wearing certain types of clothing,” Kally Wu ’13 said.At the SlutTalk, Stoner said she had a change of heart from her original opinion of the march. “Controversial is actually good, because it brings people’s attention,” she said.After the Cornell subgroup joined the crowd in the Commons, participants shared their stories of sexual assault, abuse and discrimination. “I am a survivor of rape, and it’s really overwhelming to have people over here. I apologize for getting emotional about that, but really it is,” Claudio-Albarran said, beginning the survivor speak-out portion of the event. Looking to the future, Claudio-Albarran encouraged the audience to continue to combat victim-blaming.“This is an issue we need to keep fighting for. Hopefully, through our work, these SlutWalk marches won’t have to happen anymore. That’s my goal: victims can stand together and feel supported, and feel loved,” she said.The march was not only attended by women. Kolbeinn Karlsson ’13, one of the male participants, described the role he sees men holding in the movement. “Almost everyone has sisters, mothers, daughters … you don’t want them to grow up in a world where rape is okay, where rape is accepted, that woman have a different stature,” he said. “There’s a huge misunderstanding that this is only a woman’s issue.”Among signs that read “Would you blame a homicide victim for his murder?” and “Make love, not rape,” Alexis Boytsov ’12 held a sign commemorating Gwen Araujo, a woman who was murdered when she was 14 for being transsexual.“It’s people that have no power and privilege in our society that get victimized. We live in a rape culture where rape against people with lesser status is okay. Instead of brushing rape off as something that is not a big deal, rape should be talked about in this way everyday,” she said.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Ailin Lu ’14 said that she was raped when she was 14 years old. In fact, Solana Claudio-Albarran ’12 made that statement.

Original Author: Jinjoo Lee