Reports and Campaigns
Reports and campaigns:
Slutwalk: there's NO excuse for rape
On Saturday 22 September thousands of women and men will participate in this year's London Slutwalk. The Socialist spoke to Anastasia Richardson, one of the organisers of the event.
What are the origins of Slutwalk?
It started in Toronto in Canada when a policeman said that in order to not get raped women should 'avoid dressing like sluts'. Obviously there's never any excuse for rape and people started to march and since then there's been a really huge response. A lot of women came out saying we've had enough - the only way to stop rape is to put blame on the rapist rather than the victim.
What was the impact of last year's London event?
Last year 5,000 people came - so many people emailed us saying 'this is the first time I haven't felt blamed as a rape survivor for what happened to me'. In the crowd people were crying. It was an outpouring of people's experiences, which have been silenced for a really long time.
It's about people actually standing up and saying this has happened to me - I was raped. Victim-blaming is basically trying to say that rape doesn't exist. They're trying to say that secretly you wanted it; you were asking for it by wearing certain clothing or acting in a certain way; it doesn't really count because the woman deserved it anyway. There's all sorts of excuses such as 'if it's your partner then they have a right to do that anyway'.
So Slutwalk is basically saying, look, what happened was rape. What is the impact on society?
Men aren't inherently violent - but if society is telling them they have the right to do this to a woman and society makes excuses - for any type of woman, it can be your girlfriend, someone you know. If you're being told that it's legitimate for you to do these things to someone - and if you do do these things to someone and the police don't prosecute you, and the girl doesn't report and your friends make excuses for you and her friends make excuses for you - everyone blames her.
Does this challenge the idea that women have achieved equality?
Well, we have come some way. It was a massive victory when rape became illegal; it was a massive victory when rape within a marriage became illegal. But still only seven out of every 100 reported crimes end in a conviction so 93 out of 100 rapists are being allowed to get away with it. So it's not really illegal.
Some people, even some who describe themselves as feminists, have criticised the name Slutwalk.
I think the name is very powerful. The message is - the only way that you're going to get taken seriously as a rape victim is if you were a virgin with a lily white past, and if you're white, upper class - those things also factor very much into it. Whereas, all the other women who were raped, it just happened to them because they were sluts.
Slutwalk is breaking down those divisions and saying that we're not going to allow this to happen to anyone. The word slut is basically used as an excuse for rape. So if you stand together with other people and you say there's no such thing as a slut then you're saying there's no excuse for rape.
Do Tory policies reinforce sexism?
Poverty is a big part of why rape happens. People can't leave violent situations. They end up being dependent on people who could be violent. The Welfare Reform Bill, the abolition of a lot of individual benefits, abolition of the social fund, are making people a lot more vulnerable.
A lot of the cuts to women's services as well have really had a huge impact. I read that women's refuges, for women who've experienced violence are sending women fleeing from violent partners to sleep on buses or at the Occupy camp. So it makes people so much more vulnerable. Not to mention all the rape crisis centres who've had their funding cut.
What do you hope to come out of this year's event?
We're focussing on the legal system a lot this year, trying to change the way that rape is handled because it's just such a low priority in the justice system. The police don't collect evidence, they lose the evidence, they don't send off the tests, they don't interview witnesses, they don't make arrests, and that's when they're just being careless. A lot of times they actually try to undermine the people who are coming forward to report. It's in the news that an officer was actually falsifying rape victims' statements. We'd really like all of that to change.