August 5, 2020
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Students confront rape culture with Slut Walk

By Emili Kovell
Correspondent

Onlookers stopped and stared at the marchers as they lifted signs and bellowed chant after chant across the College’s campus.

Students hold signs that bring attention to women’s rights (Jennifer Somers / Photo Editor).

On Sept. 18, students joined forces and voices to protest against slut-shaming and victim-blaming for the annual Slut Walk.

The College held its first Slut Walk in 2011, and the protest has become an annual event on campus.

This year, the group of participants ?— both men and women ?— gathered on the steps of Green Hall before the walk began. Rebecca Melton, a sophomore English and secondary education dual major who organized the event, asked them to close their eyes and raise their hand if they were or knew someone who was a victim of sexual violence or harassment. Then they opened their eyes ?— almost every hand was raised.

“(The Slut Walk) is a space to let out all your frustration with the current systems and current prejudices in place, especially on campus-wide levels,” Melton said. “This is a place where you can go, ‘that sucks. I want to do something about that. I want people to know I’m angry.’”

Hosted by the Women in Learning and Leadership and co-sponsored by Alpha Phi Alpha, Sigma Sigma Rho and Anti-Violence Initiatives, participants started at Green Hall around 6:30 pm and returned about 20 minutes later after a raucous loop around campus.

Slut Walks have proliferated across the country and globe as part of an effort to put an end to rape culture. The movement originated in Toronto, Canada in the aftermath of a police officer’s comment during a safety forum that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

In the backlash that followed, many focused on his invocation of the word “slut” in referring to potential rape victims. Many believed that the officer’s admonishment implied that women who dress a certain way either deserve or are responsible for any sexual assault that they experience.

The Slut Walk emerged as a way to reclaim the derogatory term “slut” while protesting against the ubiquitous rape culture that places the blame on victims for the way they dress rather than on the perpetrators’ actions. 

Many people in attendance were returning participants. Sophomore history and education dual major Lucy Fleischmann called the Slut Walk that she attended last year a defining moment in her freshman year. 

“It was really fun to be so open on a college campus,” Fleischmann said.

For many of the participants, like freshman biology major Regan Kenia, their first time attending the walk inspired them to continue destigmatizing the word “slut.”

“Rape culture is a thing that should be acknowledged and not just slipped under the rug, like in some other places,” Kenia said. “I think doing this really gets the word out there.”

The Slut Walk ended on the steps of Green Hall, where Melton advised the participants to carry the empowerment and confidence generated by the event into their everyday lives.

“We are organized, we are a unit, and we are TCNJ,” Melton said. “We are here and we want to be heard.”

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