By: Charlotte Luft
*trigger warning* This story contains explicit content some viewers may not be comfortable with.
Signs that read “Cats against Catcalls”, “Find the missing Black + Brown Girls in DC #findourgirls” and “Real men don’t objectify women” filled the area surrounding the Liberty Pole in Rochester in order to protest victim blaming and rape culture, on April 21 at 5 p.m.
The Slut Walk initially started in Toronto in 2011 when a Toronto police officer said “women should avoid dressing like sluts,” in order to prevent sexual assault.
Three speakers told their own stories and a friend’s story of survival.
The event coordinators, before the speakers took the stage, told the audience if anyone felt triggered there were two counselors from Hazen Center for Integrated Care near a table behind the crowd.
Lore McSpadden, a member of the Gay Alliance, was the first speaker. She told the crowd about how she was 10 years old when she was first sexually assaulted and only 14 years old when she was raped by five men and a friend. When she was questioned about the rape the detective asked her what she had been wearing that evening.
“I remember the police officer’s smirk,” McSpadden said.
McSpadden recounted how her pain seemed to be amusing to the officer taking her statement.
The final point McSpadden made in her speech was about the LGBTQ+ community and their experience with sexual assault.
Bailey Morse, president of the Brockport chapter of the American Association of University Women, was the second speaker; she recited a poem called, “An Open Letter to My Best Friend’s Rapist”.
In the poem Morse recalls what her friend went through after being raped.
Michelle Boyd, who has also spoken at the “Take Back the Night” event at The College at Brockport, spoke about her experience with rape and the way she was treated afterward.
Boyd was 21 years old when she was raped and caught HIV which has since progressed to AIDS, by one of her husband’s friends. When she told her husband she had been raped he beat her and demanded to know why she had let herself get raped. After she told her story to the police they had her take a lie detector test and asked questions such as: “What type of sex did you have in the past and currently like to have?”
Amanda Littere, a senior and one of the organizers of the event, was the final speaker and she recited a piece of slam poetry called “9 Things I Would Like to Tell Every Teenage Girl” by Melissa Newman-Evans.
After all of the speeches were made, the protestors made their way around the area by the Liberty Pole and shouted chants through the streets of Rochester such as “Join together, free our lives, we will not be victimized!” and “However we dress wherever we go yes means yes and no means no.”
Seniors Rebkah Linberger and Ameera Bhanji along with Littere organized the Slut Walk for their macro project for the social work department. Each senior had different things they wanted attendees to get out of the event.
“I would say to survivors that you’re never alone,” Linberger said. “There’s always resources for you and more people are affected than you could ever imagine so you always have someone behind you whether you know it or not.”
For Littere the main message she wanted to communicate is that there is always something you can do.
“I want them to feel empowered,” Littere said “If they see something do something, I don’t want this to be swept under the rug.”
April is sexual assault awareness month, the Slut Walk’s route went through a high traffic area of Rochester in order to get the message out to as many people as possible, but this is still an ongoing issue.
“It’s an ongoing issue and this is an event that happens every single year so if people didn’t make it out this year they can go next year or even take it on next year and make it their [macro] project,” Bhanji said.