Hundreds of women swapped dress suits for hotpants and revealing tops on Saturday as Washington became the latest global city to host a SlutWalk calling for an end to sexual violence and victim blaming.
A crowd made up mainly of women, which organizers estimated at about 2,000-strong, gathered opposite the White House, holding up homemade signs with messages reading everything from “This is what I was wearing when I was raped” to “Rape predates the miniskirt.”
On the stroller behind 23-month-old Virginia Warder, a sign read “My body is mine.” The toddler, dressed in a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “My mommy is a slut,” played with a pink feather boa and ate peaches as women and men in various states of dress readied for the 1.6km march to the Washington Monument on the grassy esplanade known as the National Mall.
Virginia’s mother Theresia felt doubly victimized when she was sexually assaulted as a teenager because “people said it was my fault.”
“This SlutWalk and all the others are about women saying to men that we can’t prevent our own sexual assault by dressing one way or another; only the people who assault us can prevent it,” she said.
Samantha Wright organized Washington’s SlutWalk to highlight how “blaming the victim only serves to silence them and perpetuates sexual violence.”
“Victims of sexual violence are put in a really tough spot because we’re told to report these things but when we do, we’re told it’s our fault,” she added. “This perpetuates the cycle of violence because the perpetrator feels their actions are justified. So they continue to commit violence and the victims continue to remain silent.”
The SlutWalk phenomenon began in Toronto in April when hundreds of women and men took to the Canadian city’s streets for a march to protest a police constable’s comment that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
Since then, SlutWalks have been held in dozens of cities around the world, including Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, New Delhi, Philadelphia, Seoul and Sydney.
Costa Rica was scheduled to hold a march yesterday outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Jose to protest a call by senior Catholic clerics for women to dress “modestly” in order to avoid being “dehumanized” and “objectified.”