The Collegian
Tuesday, May 17, 2022

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UR protesters march across campus in a Slut Walk

In response to "A Letter to Women" and other campus issues, 12 students participated in a Slut Walk demonstration, which went from Keller Hall to Whitehurst on Tuesday to protest sexual violence.

"The point of a Slut Walk is to address issues of sexual abuse and violence," junior Jennifer Johnson said. "We're trying to get people to not let women blame themselves for their rape because the clothes that they wear and other types of assaults. Basically, we want to give people the freedom to dress how they want and act how they want, without being judged and without any fear of violence."

The participants shouted various phrases during the walk, including "yes means yes, and no means no," "there's no shame in wearing whatever you want to, you should be respected," "my body, my choice" and "down with rape culture."

The Slut Walk, organized by senior Jon Henry, sophomore Elizabeth Dorton and others, was not just a response to the "A Letter to Women," written by sophomore Brendan Rhatican, but was also a way to address issues that have been taking place for a long time on campus, Henry said.

"We've felt there was a need for a slut walk even before the article came out," Johnson said. "Slut Walks have been done in major cities. You don't have to come dressed as a slut to participate."

People from all over campus have gotten together for the cause, Dorton said. About 76 people on Facebook said that they would attend the event, though Dortan said she anticipated between 30 and 35 people to show up.

Sophomore Ashley Colon said participating in the walk felt good, but campus was very quiet.

"Our biggest goal is to not to change minds, but to keep issues fresh, so that people think before they act and speak and consider campus rules and policy legislation," Dorton said.

Sophomore Rachel Hall said she had come to the walk because people should be comfortable with what they wear, without judgment or fear of being sexually assaulted. That's what the slut walk stands for, she said.

"The scariest part is that people use the way girls dress as a scapegoat," Hall said. "It doesn't matter what she's wearing or how she's acting, someone is going to try and take advantage of her."

Many students have turned Rhatican's letter into a sexual-violence issue, Dorton said. Dorton said she did not believe that Rhatican meant his letter to be read in that way.

Sophomore Red Finney said he did not agree with the overall points that Rhatican made.

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"We thought it would be a good idea to do some action-based activity," Henry said. "It's a result of 'A Letter to Women,' but also a larger dialogue going on nationally and locally. It's about embracing your body, and being proud of who you are."

Junior Jasper Gunn said one reason the Slut Walk was important was to affirm that people should dress how they want and still be respected and safe from harassment and assault.

"The importance is not as much as the letter or the author, but the issues that the letter brought up, and how it was interpreted," Gunn said.

Gunn said that walkers had chosen to end at Whitehurst because it contained the dean's office and was symbolic of the issues on campus.

"The way the coordinate college system is currently set up, it is as if the Richmond College deanery and the administration are guiding forces in teaching men how to be men," Gunn said. "We're trying to affirm that part of what it means to be a man is to respect everyone, and not to judge people based on what they're wearing, to not harass them, to not assault them and not to rape them."

Not all rapes, but most rapes are perpetrated by men, Gunn said.

"We are trying to draw attention to the fact that you don't normally think of it being the good Richmond men doing these things, but that's who is on this campus, and that's who perpetrates the most assaults," Gunn said. "We are aware that the deanery is aware of this issue with their 'It Ends Now' campaign, but that's why we're ending here. It's symbolic."

Contact staff writer Rachael Specter at rachael.specter@richmond.edu

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