In Tampa, SlutWalkers say the dress does not mean “yes”
Rallies sparked worldwide after a Toronto police officer's comment in April that women should avoid dressing like “sluts.” Hundreds of people protested this past Saturday in Tampa at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square against sexual victimization. Organizers of the SlutWalk Tampa called foul on victim blaming and slut-shaming and they say they hope the fight against the demonization of rape victims continues.
Greg Stevens, a youth pastor in Tampa, is a volunteer coordinator for SlutWalk Tampa. He found his sister's diary two years ago while rummaging in a box full of pictures his sister left after she took her life.
“They raped me and asked me to do things I have never heard of. Forcing things into me. Telling me to turn them on. The boys of the neighborhood every day for weeks raped me. And my mom acted like nothing was happening. But I knew she knew. She had to have known. I am afraid to tell my closest loved ones that I was raped because then they would tell me I am a lesbian because of it,” Stevens read. ”I am afraid to tell them because if they ask why no one did anything I would have to tell them that my family thought I was just a slut.”
Charli Solis is one of the organizers who spearheaded the SlutWalk in Tampa. She is a graphic artist and communications major with a womens' studies minor at University of Tampa.
“I am not a survivor myself but I know plenty of people who have been sexually assaulted, men and women. My grandmother was actually a victim of sexual assault and had a child because of it. This is something that affects everybody on a huge level, it doesn’t discriminate. I don't think that you have to be a survivor to be supportive to the fact that this is happening to our family and friends and it needs to come to an end,” Solis said.
Solis said that SlutWalk grew into a international movement as a response to a Toronto police officer's comment in April that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized.”
“This is the first big movement for my generation, for us third wavers to really get out there and show we fight for something. We didn't have for our right to vote, we didn’t have to protest against the war, we didn’t have to fight for our reproduction freedom or the right to choose. We were born into these wonderful privileges. I think we are now realizing that this, the sexual assault disproportionally affects us. People are finally pissed of enough to come out and stand up for something,” she said.
Connie Rose, founder and president of Victims2Survivors,says one in four women and one in every six men is the victim of sexual assault. But many victims don't report these crimes.
“You can only imagine if we reported that we were sexually abused what those numbers be like. You know, after my father would come in and hurt me he would say he loved me. He actually had the audacity to tell the detectives once that the reason he raped me over and over and over again was because he was in love with me."
Reverend Phyllis Hunt is senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Tampa. She says that that the victimization of women based on how they dress is a universal problem.
“When I found out that the SlutWalk was coming here, a justice walk to say that no one should be harmed regardless of how they dress, how they walk, how they look, and how they live in the live in the world. No one should be violated. Not by rape, not by verbal slander, not by insult, not by any kind of violence. That living in a diverse community and living into the goals of unity means that we recognize we all do things differently, we live differently,” she said.
Hunt is concerned about the ways sex workers are demonized.
“The second one of them gets raped, violated, murdered, they are the ones blamed and we have to stop that. So, I am here to stand up with our community of like-minded folks and say that no one should be violated especially because of on how they look, how they dress or how they contribute to the society,” she said.
Hunt says that in some places in society womens' work is not acknowledged or welcomed.
“But that cannot stop us from living in the fullness of who we were called to be in. And so I am a justice worker and this is some of the justice work I have to work through to do what I am called to do,” Hunt said
Sister Agatha Frisky represents The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an organization for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Her face is painted white and she wears a risque black dress.
“Our white faces is a standard kabuki style white face. It started out in the seventies when you had to hide your identity in order to represent the community. And now it is almost like a badge of honor,” Frisky said.
Monica Muffdiver wants to help educate the community about sexual violence.
“We were out two weeks ago doing an event and I had on a little skirt. And this guy lifted my skirt and grabbed my package… Even though I was dressed in a certain way, it doesn’t give you the right” she said.
For more information about the SlutWalk visit slutwalktampa.com.
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