Students bring awareness to rape stigma
Editor's note: This story was originally published on Nov. 11, 2012.
On Wednesday, Mu Sigma Upsilon, in collaboration with the UCF chapter of the National Organization for Women, hosted the second annual SlutWalk at UCF, an event geared toward raising awareness about sexual assault. The march began at Memory Mall where students discussed the tough topic of rape.
Several speakers kicked off the event prior to the walk around campus, including UCF women's a cappella group So Noted, poet Curtis X Meyer, as well as two UCF faculty members. Attendees proudly displayed posters and signs with statements that read My clothes are not my consent and In every language, no means no.
"It's important to show that were standing in solidarity with women who have experienced people telling them that because of what they've worn or because of how they look that is the reason why they've been subjected to something as horrifying and traumatic as rape," freshman Erika Hanley said.
The walk became a national event after a Toronto police officer told law school students women should "avoid dressing like sluts" in order not to be victimized in January of last year. The officer and Toronto Police Department as a whole experienced harsh backlash from the comment.
"Basically he was saying what we were wearing was the reason why we're getting raped. Now, we all know thats actually not the reason because you can be fully covered, there's Islamic countries, and they're still getting raped," graduate student and event chair Ashley Hill said. "It started as a reaction to that, basically saying, you know, instead of teaching women how to dress, teach men not to rape. Consent is sexy and all of that," Hill said.
Event speakers brought to light many aspects of assault that are not typically discussed.
Tava Bingham, coordinator for the Office of Student Involvement, told of her experience in dealing with the emotional burden of sexual assault. She described receiving support from a friend and realizing that she was lucky to be alive. However, Bingham told the crowd, "We have reached a dangerous point in our society when we look for a silver lining in sexual assault."
Wanda Ortiz, a professor in the School of Visual Arts and Design, discussed the definition of the word provoke, and how irrelevant the argument for conservative dress really is.
"Women get raped in sweat pants coming home from the laundromat," she said, illustrating the point of the event and how clothing has nothing to do with provoking sexual assault.
She encouraged students who have experienced rape or sexual assault to consider the messages conveyed in popular music about women and rape, to learn self-defense and, most importantly, to not feel victimized.
An additional recurring theme of the event included bringing attention to the fact that sexual assault affects people of all sexes and genders. Although many attendees were female, male students were also present.
"I think it's important that all of us stand out here and understand that it can happen to anyone, and it's not even just women. Men and women, it can happen to anyone," Hanley said.
Meyer, who is originally from Toronto, aimed to support the event's message through reciting his original spoken-word material.
"Your body is a gift to you and a privilege to others," Meyer told the crowd.
UCFs Victim Services also spoke briefly at the event, informing students about the kind of assistance available for victims of assault. Anyone seeking assistance of this nature may call the hotline at 407-823-1200 any time. Victim Services provides an on-call advocate 24/7, even on holidays, for students who have experienced any type of sexual assault or violence.