It may interest you to know that rape and dress sense aren’t linked at all.
When most people are raped by someone they knew (85.7%, sometimes found to be higher, depending on study) then dressing differently or more conservatively isn’t a preventative measure at all. You’re speaking of the much much smaller number of stranger-rape cases, and in those cases, if you look at this study, you’ll realise that not only are clothing and your chances of getting raped not linked statistically what-so-ever (women, men, children and people of all gender identities are raped regardless of clothing) but “While people perceive dress to have an impact on who is assaulted, studies of rapists suggest that victim attire is not a significant factor. Instead, rapists look for signs of passiveness and submissiveness, which, studies suggest, are more likely to coincide with more body-concealing clothing.”
“This conclusion is inconsistent with the common belief that how a woman dresses has an impact on whether she will be sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. Why then, do many people, including psychiatrists, assume that dress plays some part in who is a victim of sexual assaults? In particular, why do women believe this? Social scientists believe this is the result of the “just world hypothesis.”
The just world hypothesis and attribution error basically explains the reason this rape myth has been around for so long is because, as human beings, we like to believe we’re rational and that the world is logical, therefore we try to attribute certain characteristics to certain victims to believe that not only could we never be a victim of sexual assault ourselves, but that there was some logical reasoning behind what happened. This is really a defence mechanism. No one deserves rape, no one brought it upon themselves - rape only happens because there is a rapist in the room.
The basis of SlutWalk is against victim blaming and slut shaming – it’s about shifting the focus from the victim to the perpetrator. Rape is a crime, cleavage is not.
Telling women how to dress is really a flimsy band-aid over the problem, and one that doesn’t actually statistically or logically make sense. As a society we need to reject this band-aid and focus on real threat management.
(Looking at structural violence and sexism, the objectification rather than celebration of sexuality within society, education systems which don’t have healthy and open dialogue on issues of consent, relationships and abuse are good places to start so we can start to pave our way to a consent culture.)
“When you shame women who dress “too slutty”, guess what you’re doing? You’re perpetuating a culture that blames victims of sexual assault and rape. You’re basically saying that if that woman were to be raped, well, she was kinda asking for it. YOU are the reason why rapists target those women: because you make it easier for them to get away with a horrible fucking crime. Rape is a fucking crime; cleavage isn’t.”
SlutWalk Explained: The Name, The Aims, The Facts.
This is by the amazing Aimee Claire, from the SlutWalk London Team.
Run a student group? Want to challenge victim-blaming and slut-shaming? Here are 20 tips on how to effectively run a sex-positive, anti-rape feminist society:
- Don’t alienate, educate. Not everyone identifies as a feminist, or actively tackles sexism. Many people don’t know what feminism really is. If you feel people at your university/college don’t understand feminism, don’t allow yourself to become a clique – hold discussions, organise meetings, and make sure the message is out there: ‘if you don’t like sexism, you’re welcome here’.
- Be inclusive, anti-racist and pro-sex workers’ rights. Be public in this stance, and actively seek out any organisations local to you which deal with racism and discrimination against sex workers. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
- Invite speakers from local organisations, or from further afield. For example, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, the English Collective of Prostitutes and Women Against Rape, who helped to organise Slutwalk London and spoke at the event (rather brilliantly, I must say), would be glad to speak - as long as you can cover their travel they’ll be there. If you find there are differences among organisations, ask them to speak at a public debate, so people can make up their own minds.
- Organise a speak out, where individuals can speak out about their experiences of rape and other violence. The NUS has found that a shocking amount of students have experienced some form of sexual assault, and that only a tiny percentage tell anyone or see a doctor. Events like these can help change that. (Click here to read the NUS report).
- Root your demands for change in women’s experiences, and target the authorities who have the resources and power to change things. Slutwalk London publicised the dismal UK conviction rate for reported rape of 6.5%. Thousands of rape and sexual assault survivors used the occasion to speak about what happened to them – not just their fury at their attacker but at how the authorities (the police, Crown Prosecution Service, courts, local authorities, medical staff, housing officials . . .) were dismissive, hostile, blamed them and sabotaged their efforts to get their attacker brought to justice. Look at what demands and campaigns can come from those experiences to challenge and hold the authorities to account.
- As far as we at SMSU are concerned, feminist and gender-equality groups should welcome everyone. Including men. Women-only groups/meetings have a time and a place, and that should be respected, but men should not think that this is a ‘women’s issue’ that has nothing to do with them. Patriarchy affects us all, and if we want real change, we need everyone on board.
- Some feminist groups are also cis-women only. Don’t be one of those groups. Just. Don’t be. It is hateful, pure and simple. And hating minorities is not what feminism should be about.
- Make sure that feminist issues are top of your SU’s agenda. Give ‘em hell. If the lighting is poor on campus, protest. Make it policy that students are given free rape alarms. Push for the NUS’s campaign against sexual harassment. Challenge sexism in SU publications, and investigate your union’s sponsors (Dominoes has a particularly troubling track-record – Exeter I’m looking at you). Get your union to affiliate with pro-sex worker, anti-racism and anti-sexism groups. You could even get them to affiliate to us!
- Go to the NUS women’s conference – learn from the other women, but also call them out on racism and anti-sex worker sentiment when you see it.
- Run for sabbatical positions! We need more feminist student unions. You can make that happen.
- Join the anti-cuts movement. At the moment it’s visibly white, male & not very feminist. Remind groups that women are the first to suffer under this government, and that Black, immigrant and other groups facing racism and other prejudice are the hardest hit, while being ignored when they campaign. Support your local rape crisis centre and/or sexual assault referral centre when local cuts come around. Make the economic connections clear – (student) poverty makes women more vulnerable to sexual violence.
- Fundraise. Organise a gig, have a raffle, go down the oh-so-traditional and yet oh-so-delicious route of the bake sale. Raise money for yourself and other organisations, here in the UK and abroad. Fundraise for the next Slutwalk London – we’ll need around three grand to pull off another one, and there’s certainly a lot of people keen to come again!
- Circulate information about practical help, like the Women Against Rape’s self-help guide available free at: www.womenagainstrape.net/resource/self-help-guide-survivors-rape-and-sexual-assault (or order a paper copy), or make your own.
- Keep your members updated on what’s going on in the world. Write a regular newsletter. Set up a feminist zine and get your fellow students to contribute. Who knows, it could be the next Bitch!
- Set up anti-rape groups, self-help groups, support groups for victims of racist and sexist abuse, and make sure that all the local and university-based support services are widely publicised.
- Organise your own Slutwalk, and/or a Reclaim the Night march. The great thing about events like these is you can make them specific to your local community as well as to the international issue of victim-blaming. Is your local council openly anti-women? Are your street lights being switched off? Incorporate it into your march and bring it to the attention of the locals in an inventive and exciting way.
- Encourage students to write to the local papers – they will print them if you make a good argument and/or write from personal experience. This can help shape public debate and make your demands for change visible.
- Send us details of your upcoming events! We’ll share them online with fellow SMSU supporters.
- Make sure that you record your events – film them, take pics and write reports to publicise
what you have achieved (respecting participants who want to remain anonymous). Let us know what you’re up to, too, and we’ll share it with followers of SMSU. Publicise anything you achieve – we’re all used to bad news, make sure your good news travels!
- Most importantly, stand up for what you believe in, never back down when you know you’re right but admit it when you’re wrong & be proud of your achievements. Go out there and shake things up. Goodness knows the feminist movement needs it.
- Caitlin & The Crossroads Women’s Centre
Announcing SlutWalk London 2012
Slutwalk London: The radical notion that nobody deserves to be raped.
On 11th June 2011, SlutWalk came to London. Thousands of people of all races, genders, sexualities, classes and occupations came together to protest the silencing of our voices, the repression of our choices and the violence against our bodies. The word ‘slut’ carries a history of assault, shaming, insults and degradation, where people are forced to remain silent about their assault through a society and legal system which all too often places the blame on the victim. But those who came to SlutWalk were far from silent and ashamed. As much as SlutWalk was a direct challenge to the attitudes and practises which allow rape to continue in society, it was a celebration of our bodies, identities and choices, and an affirmation of our commitment to continuing the long struggle towards a world without assault.
Today, we are asking you to join with us for SlutWalk 2012. We need to continue the pressure we have put on those who would allow sexual assault and victim blaming to continue and welcome the silencing of those who are raped. The courts and police stations are still dismissing people’s reports of assault, losing crucial evidence or twisting the facts to render the victim responsible for their own assault - while as many as 95% of cases go unreported. In a worsening economic climate, people are being made more vulnerable to sexual violence by poverty, unemployment and drastic cuts to services - whether they be youth services, rape crisis centres or benefits to disabled people. Sex workers - a group especially vulnerable to sexual assault - still live in fear of reporting sexual assault lest they be persecuted by police or lose their livelihood through the closing of premises. Undocumented immigrants are still unable to report sexual assault for fear of imprisonment and deportation, making them easily exploitable. Sexual assault is often ignored or misunderstood in LGBTQ communities, where people face intrusive scrutiny over how they express themselves. We are asking you to join with us to continue fighting against sexual assault, slut shaming and victim blaming - and to recognise the racism, homophobia and class oppression which leave us more vulnerable.
There is one unifying factor in the language of those who are anti-woman and pro-rape: rape doesn’t happen. We were asking for it. We changed our minds the next morning. We were lying to get one over on our attackers. Men ‘can’t’ be raped. It wasn’t ‘proper’ rape. We deserved it. We secretly enjoyed it. Our partner did it, so it doesn’t count. We were dressed in such a way to be responsible for the violence. SlutWalk came out of a long movement against this attitude, and our voices are louder and clearer than ever. We invite you to march with us again in 2012, and organise with us in the months leading up to the march. We will not be silenced.
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Statements from our supporters and from organisations we work with:
“I am marching because my best friend still thinks that her rape was her fault, because the authorities never looked into it, and because it will always haunt her. And that is not okay.” - anonymous supporter
“We are not victims. We were victims, for a moment in time. Now, we are survivors.” - Emily Jacob, supporter
“Whatever I wear, however I act, as a woman, there is always the possibility that I will be deemed a ‘slut’” - Rosa, supporter
“Believe it or not, not one of us is dressing for anyone other than ourselves.” - Kelly, supporter
“I will be on the Slutwalk to help make visible the many ways in which we women of colour have been abused by those who want to justify our rape and exploitation. In the UK and across the globe, women of colour face racist and sexist violence. Women of African descent have always been considered sex objects, perpetually available to white men. The police are too often not responsive to any rape survivors, but even less so if we are women of colour. I’ll be marching along with other Black and immigrant sisters, with white sisters, and with men who support us, to break down the barriers which divide us. Either we are all sluts or none of us is.” - Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project
“Since 1976 we have been campaigning for all rape to be taken seriously. The anti-rape movement has shifted public opinion and won changes to the rape law and to prosecution policies. But implementation is still appalling. Only 6.5% of reported rape leads to a conviction. While most rapists get away with it, we face an increasing trend towards jailing rape victims accused of lying after a negligent and biased investigation into their rape. The organisers of Slutwalk London are determined that this movement be inclusive and make concrete demands.” - Women Against Rape
“How many of us have been unable to report violent attacks for fear of criminalisation, deportation or losing our anonymity? How many of us have been told by police we will be disbelieved and even arrested if we report? How many of us have been prosecuted when we did report while our attackers went free? We face criminalisation for trying to make a living and moralism from women who call themselves feminists, who claim that all prostitution is violence against women and that all immigrant sex workers are trafficked. Whether on the street or in premises, we are being driven further underground and into more danger. SlutWalk is another confirmation that people are really with us for an end to criminalisation and poverty everywhere.” - English Collective of Prostitutes
“All over the world women experience sexual violence, displacement, torture, feminicide and kidnap but the needs, realities, experiences and perspectives of women are often excluded from consideration. When women’s voices are not heard, women’s needs are ignored. When women are marginalised and excluded from power, men think it’s okay to say things like ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.’ We believe that you can’t build peace by leaving half of the people out. No women, no peace.” - Chitra Nagarajan, No Women No Peace
“As disabled people, as children, we are vulnerable to violence from people we know, in the family and in institutions. We are not supposed to have a sex life, but we are often sexually exploited by the men around us. Did we provoke it? Did we dress like sluts? As women with disabilities, as single mothers, we have fought to have an income – so that we are not at the mercy of partners and family for our survival. That is being taken away from us. We are being driven back into dependence by the cuts in benefits, housing and services.” - WinVisible (Women With Visible and Invisible Disabilities)
“In Britain, the release of an official report declaring that girls are being too “sexualised” has coincided with parliamentary lobbies for young women to be “taught to say no”. Join the dots with police officers telling women that “no” is insufficient if they happen not to be dressed like a nun and an ugly picture begins to form. Young women, in particular, are expected to look hot and available at all times, but if we dare to express desires of our own, we are mocked, shamed and threatened with sexual violence, which, apparently, has nothing to do with the men who inflict it and everything to do with the length of skirt we have on. Now, more than ever, it’s time for “sluts” to walk - and walk tall.” - Laurie Penny
Sheila Farmer: Action Alert
Sheila Farmer describes herself as a ‘sex worker being prosecuted for working together with other women for safety.’ Her case perfectly illustrates what SlutWalk London is working against: how outdated attitudes endanger women’s lives and freedoms. The anti-sex work crusade of both illiberal feminists and the conservative right hides a dark, ugly truth of repression, shaming and persecution. Women’s lives are endangered by laws and attitudes that silence their voices and force them into further isolation and victimisation. Sheila Farmer has very kindly agreed to speak at SlutWalk London and we ask that you support her by reading this statement and asking for this case to be dropped immediately. Ms Farmer’s trial will take place on the 5th September 2011.
Ms Sheila Farmer has been a diabetic since childhood and is seriously ill with a malignant brain tumour. Yet she has been charged with managing a brothel and is facing an onerous trial and criminal record.
Ms Farmer used to work on her own but after only six months she was viciously attacked by a man who raped her repeatedly, tried to strangle her and kept her tied up for hours. He was deported after an Old Bailey trial. Fearful of another attack, Ms Farmer vowed never to work alone. She has worked with friends for the past 17 years. Ill health has forced her to cut down so she has taken on co-ordinating clients for other women.
Ms Farmer says ‘I believe strongly that women working as we were should be left alone. The laws are antiquated. I was earning money to pay for my cancer treatment. This moral crusade is making criminals out of women like me.’
Ms Farmer’s flat was raided by the police in August 2010. Following complaints by some neighbours, police officers visited and saw there was no force or coercion. To make things easier Ms Farmer agreed to move. Yet while she was in the process of moving she was arrested. Her insulin was taken from her and she was only released from police custody after a doctor said that her health would be in serious danger if she were to be held any longer.
Ms Farmer has never coerced anyone into work. On the contrary, she has taken great care to protect women from attack. At personal risk, despite threats and retribution, she appeared as a witness in court to ensure the conviction of an armed gang that had attacked hundreds of working women in the south of England.
Ms Farmer is a mother trying to survive in harsh economic times. She only went into sex work because diabetes caused her to lose too much of her vision to keep her job as an IT consultant. Ms Farmer is struggling to survive two serious health conditions. Her consultant has written to the court: “I am afraid the future is uncertain and one can almost guarantee that the tumour will grow and progress in the relatively near future. If possible it would be medically justifiable to try and avoid any stress associated with any prolonged Court hearing.”
Not only does Ms Farmer face a prolonged trial, she faces up to seven years in prison. Why is this prosecution being brought?
- Please write to Kier Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions and ask for the case to be dropped immediately. [email protected]
- Copy to Jo Johnson MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA Tel: 020 7219 7125 [email protected]
The laws which force sex workers to work in isolation and make us more vulnerable to attack must be abolished. For safety’s sake, decriminalize.
Donate to SlutWalk London 2012! We still need over £2,000 for a PA system, permits, stage etc.
A film against rape We are making a self-help film about rape which educates us instead of telling us to be ashamed.
SlutWalk London 2012!
Sheila Farmer's prosecution dropped
Photos: Tom Radenz and Claire Butler