Cars honked as wet cardboard signs waved in the air throughout the streets of Santa Cruz Sunday morning. Despite the rain, about 100 protesters came out to participate in SlutWalk Santa Cruz, one of many protests held under the same name in different cities across the nation.
SlutWalk is a movement responding to a statement made by Toronto police representative Michael Sanguinetti in January. In a class regarding rape at Osgoode Hall Law School, Sanguinetti said, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
Despite his apologies, this statement has sparked controversy throughout the nation.
Santa Cruz protesters said they wanted to advocate for the idea that women should not be blamed for being victims of violent sexual crimes solely based on the way they physically express themselves.
“Nothing that anyone does justifies them being raped, ever,” said Kristen Watkins, a Santa Cruz local who attended the event. “Rape is rape and it’s never excusable.”
“Slut shaming” as it is known among the protesters, is a practice activists like Watkins are trying to discourage. The term refers to victims of rape becoming the accused due to the clothes they wear or the general way they present themselves. A number of protests have been started nationwide, and the movement has spread to the city of Santa Cruz.
Rape in Santa Cruz has increased in recent years. The amount of rape incidents has doubled from 2009 to 2010, according the SCPD website.
The march started in San Lorenzo Park and proceeded through downtown Santa Cruz. There was a large turnout to the event, despite the drizzly weather. This was due in part to organization through a Facebook group. Prior to the event, the group had 955 members attending.
“We are asking you to join us for SlutWalk, to make a unified statement about sexual assault and victims’ rights and to demand respect for all,” the Facebook event page read. “You needn’t claim the word slut for yourself — whether a fellow slut or simply an ally — you don’t have to wear your sexual proclivities on your sleeve, we just ask that you come … walk or roll or strut or holler or stomp with us.”
Throughout the day, chants like “Yes means yes, no means no,” and “Rape is bad, sluts are good,” filled the air.
Jesse Clampitt, who attended UC Santa Cruz until spring 2010, traveled from Salinas to make it out to the walk.
“It’s all about putting self-empowerment back to people,” Clampitt said. “It doesn’t matter if you are a man, a woman, a transgender, whatever. It’s about taking back the word ‘slut’ and empowering your body and what you do, and teaching that rape is not OK no matter what the circumstances are.”
UCSC third-year Alison O’Connor participated in the event and shared the sentiments of other protesters.
“I’m sick and tired of living in a culture that supports the rapist rather than the victim,” O’Connor said. “The whole idea that dressing in a positive way that embraces your female sexuality or any sexuality that you have makes you a slut … is bizarre.”
Participants like O’Connor hoped they would get their message across to the general public, changing the perception of the ideas of rape and physical expression.
Barbara Lindsey is a grandmother who joined the event. She said she hoped her presence shows how this issue affects women of all ages.
“Slut-on power for all my granddaughters everywhere, and my grandsons,” she said. “Freedom for the people [of] expression everywhere.”