Please donate here to SlutWalk London 2012! We still need to raise over £2,000 for the sound system, permits etc. Even a couple of quid will go a long way. Donating will mean you’re helping put on a really amazing and empowering event. Donations are via PayPal, which will keep your details safe. Please share this round!
To those who have been asking, as soon as we have a date for the walk we will put it on this website. The sooner we have the money we need the sooner we will know, so please donate!
For anyone who wants to share it round the donate link is http://bit.ly/slutwalk2012donate
Please put it out on twitter, facebook, email, etc.
Protest: Just say no to Dorries’ abstinence education bill!
On 20 January 2012, Nadine Dorries’ proposed amendment to sex education, Bill 185, which suggests GIRLS be taught abstinence, is due to get a second reading in parliament. Slut Means Speak Up will be speaking at this planned protest against the bill, together with Women Against Rape and Black Women’s Rape Action Project, who were involved in organising SlutWalk last June.
We will be at this protest because we know that abstinence-only sex education will be incredibly harmful to rape survivors. We know that the girls being taught to ‘just say no’ in school will become the women being accused of not saying ‘no’ loudly enough when they were raped. We know that the girls taught that sex must remain an unspoken subject will become the rape survivors who are too ashamed to share their experiences and find healing. We know that the girls being taught that there is no such thing as consensual sex will become the women who are unable to recognise, report and fight against rape.
UPDATE 20/01 - The bill has been withdrawn! Thank you so much to everyone who came to the protest.
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
The charges against Sheila Farmer have been dropped!
Ms Farmer’s trial was thrown out because of police and prosecution incompetence – witnesses had not been asked to attend court and a key witness could not be found. Ms Farmer has attended court six times and the case has been listed to start on two previous occasions. (from a statement by the English Collective of Prostitutes).
Sheila has written in the Guardian today: Life is hard enough for prostitutes without our work being criminalised
“It’s enough for two prostitutes to live or work together for us to be illegal. I worked alone. Within months, I was attacked, raped repeatedly, tied up, held hostage, and nearly strangled. I gave evidence against my attacker but he got off. I suffered years of nightmares and panic attacks and decided never to work alone again. Using my prostitution earnings I trained for five years to become a counsellor, only to have my chances of getting a job scuppered by a CRB check exposing my prostitution.
By this time I was working with friends because it was safer. That’s when I suffered my second major attack. We were robbed at gunpoint by a gang who had targeted hundreds of flats in the south of England. Most victims would not go to the police for fear of being prosecuted. Despite threats to my life and my flat being petrol bombed, I gave evidence and was commended by the judge for my bravery.
We moved to another flat and within a few months were raided. I was arrested and charged with brothel-keeping. I decided to fight the case as my tumour is now malignant and my time is running out. Who has a right to judge me?”
This amazing victory is due to the work of the English Collective of Prostitutes, who continue to campaign tirelessly for the welfare and safety of women like Sheila. Thank you so much to everyone who supported her, even if it was just to read about her case. A little public scrutiny makes a huge difference, meaning that unjust prosecutions like this one cannot go through. We ask that you continue to support the English Collective of Prostitutes in their work. You can do so by signing their petition to decriminalise sex work and prioritise safety.
A disabled sexual assault survivor speaks out: “I had fantastic support and still felt to blame”
[trigger warning: description of sexual assault]
It was a Sunday, at about 5pm in 2003, at Derby station, and I was waiting on a platform when I clocked a guy walk past me a few times. I remember thinking it was odd because it was like he was literally circling me, and he was quite close. Typically British I didn’t really think anything of it, and thought that when the train got in, I could get on and wouldn’t see him again.
As the train pulled in and I went to get on, he was behind me all of a sudden. I always went for 2 seats on their own, and did again, but when I got near, he followed me in, oddly saying ‘you first’ despite me being in front. I still thought that it would be an awkward journey rather than dangerous and just started to look out the window rather than talk to him. I can’t really remember how long it was before he spoke, or what order he said things. I think he started by showing me some new trainers and then telling me of a club in Nottingham which wouldn’t let him in because he had the trainers on and because he was drunk.
I remember feeling uncomfortable how much anger he was showing about something insignifcant. He then showed me 2 peoms he’d written, I can’t remember the first but the second one terriefied me from the start. It was basically about a woman he saw from a distance in a club, he decided he wanted this woman and nothing would stop him. When he got close to her, he saw she had a wedding ring on, but believed that she only wore it as a flirtation, to encourage him to try harder. He told me that he had written it as he felt some women did things like that.
I can’t remember whether it was the poem, or him, which went on to tell me that he would treat her as badly (sexually) as he wanted and she would have deserved it, even secretly wanted it. I remember starting to feel really uneasy, I hadn’t really said anything by this time, I’d been looking out the window most of the time. A conductor came round and I felt an enourmous sense of wanting to get his attention, coupled with an enourmous sense of fear of annoying this man. I’m almost ashamed to say that I showed my ticket and let the conductor pass.
The guy then put his face close to mine and tried to kiss me, I turned my face to the window and caught my reflection, which was crying. He put his hand on my knee, and I tried clenching my legs together, he moved his hand further up my knee and between my legs untill he was touching me, I’d been saying no, probably too quietly as stupidly I didn’t want to make a fuss, and he said ‘you haven’t got any arms, you can’t do anything about this’. I haven’t mentioned my disability before as it has never been an issue, but this made it one.
We must have pulled into Nottingham around about then, I asked to leave as it was my stop, he got up but then gathered his things saying he was getting off too. I saw a woman get up about my age (I’d have been 22) and I moved as quickly as I could to her, still not really wanting to draw attention and I got to be stood behind her just a fraction before he got behind me, but before I could say anything, he put his arm round me and thrust his groin into me. I guess (apart from my tears) we just looked like a couple. He kept his arm round me till we got to the concourse, before we got there I saw two police officers walking in the opposite direction but again was scared to do anything.
I didn’t want to leave the station with him anywhere near so said I needed to get some tickets for an ongoing journey, he told me he was going for a drink, told me where and even invited me for a drink before kissing me on the cheek and saying how nice it was to meet me. I watched him leave then jumped a taxi home. I don’t know why I didn’t go to find the police, or tell anyone on the station, I just wanted to get home.
I didn’t tell anyone for a few days, I didn’t leave home actually. In the end I told a friend who encouraged me to go to the police. I finally did, and got an incredibly supportive response from them. I gave information over the phone then two officers came to take a statement later that day. One of the officers asked me what I was wearing on the day and I remember feeling glad I had been wearing jeans, a jumper and a long coat. I voiced my worries to the officer about how glad I was I wasn’t wearing something that could have been interpreted as ‘asking for it’, and the police man (I’ll always be thankful of this) admitted that whilst clothing was important in the court room, whatever I had been wearing would not ever give someone the right to feel they could take what they want. This policeman coincidentally turned out to be the one I had seen at the train station whilst I was with the guy.
They took a really detailed statement, reasurred me that none of it was my fault and left, promising to keep in touch. Asd they left, they told me they suspected who it was, he had really identifable tattos on his face, and knew where he often was. I heard from them again a few weeks later, they had arrested the man they suspected and had gone to his flat with a warrant where they found the trainers he told me about, and also the poems. He was arrested and charged and they said I’d be advised of any court processes as he was pleading not guilty so I would have to give evidence.
I got a letter from Witness Care with proposed dates etc but then heard nothing for 2 years. In that time, I had moved house, graduated, changed jobs etc, and one day in 2005, I received a call from the policeman who took my statement. He said that the guy had fled the coutry to India, he tried to enter the UK again and was arrested for my indecent assault, I never really found out why noone told me he’d fled. In credit to the policeman though, he had tried calling me at my old address, and somehow tracked down my Mums address who gave him my number, again I’ll always be grateful that he took the effort to find me. The guy changed his plea to guilty and was later sentenced to 4 years imprisonment and put on the sex offenders register indefinately. I received confirmation of this in writing, I remember thinking it was odd that it was the first time I found out his name.
At this time, I was contacted by victim support, they came and took information from me to be used in licence conditions, everything seemed perfectly sensible untill the lady asked if I’d like an exclsuion zone to be given to him so he couldn’t enter specified areas. She thankfully discouraged me from taking this as she said he would then be told my full name and part of my address so he knew where to avoid!!
Looking back, I find the whole thing really tough, but not for the most obvious reasons. I only remember small details, I remember what I was wearing, and things he said, but can’t even remember what month it was, let alone the date. I remember the physical aspect didn’t disgust me as much as his use of my disability against me. I never told many people what he said, just what he did, because he is about the only person who has ever left me feeling vulnerable for my disability, and it isn’t something I care to admit. I don’t remember his name, its something I tried to do intentionally. I’m not really sure why, I think it made it more real to attribute it to a person. I alse remember the importance of small things, such as how I was treated by the police. And I remember asking my sister what would happen if I gave evidence and he was still found not guilty. She said that him being found not guilty didn’t make me guilty. That single point is something I struggled with, I never made peace with the fact that people wouldn’t believe I had in some way, instigated it.
I had fantastic, and full support from everyone involved and still felt to blame. I still feel angry that it happened, but I find it harder to think people (men and women) don’t always get treated as well as I did, and don’t get enough support. My experience was relatively minor, I can’t imagine how people cope when they feel they are not only taking on their attacker, but also the system. It’s tough enough as it is.
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
After walking around West Hollywood Park and seeing young women holding signs that referenced their childhood rapes, it was difficult to think of a single reason why SlutWalk wasn’t important or meaningful and I felt my reservations about the movement sliding away. Speaking to attendees like Mandy Burgundy, a 34-year-old trans woman who is harassed daily because of her style of dress, or Lillian Behrendt, a 21-year-old who bravely admitted to being sexually assaulted three times, really put things into perspective. Behrendt actually wasn’t going to attend the event, but as she read more about it, it began to feel more personal.
“Every time I was raped, it felt like my fault,” Behrendt said. “When I was first raped at the age of eight, that was the conclusion that I came to, but no one said it was my fault. Because of the culture we live in, I knew instinctively to blame myself for what happened. Victim blaming in not acceptable, it doesn’t matter who the victim is. Slut shaming is not ok, all it does is support and perpetuate rape culture. I’m doing this for personal reasons. Maybe I don’t unanimously support the SlutWalk message, but this is a start for a lot of us.”"
REBLOG AND SPREAD THE WORD: Slutwalk London!
Slutwalk London: The radical notion that nobody deserves to be raped.
On 24th January 2011, a Toronto policeman told a group of law students that in order to avoid being raped ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts’.
This sparked outrage around the globe, with sluts and allies from Chicago to Amsterdam standing up and saying that we have had ENOUGH of being victimised and labelled, speaking out for freedom, equality and fun and saying that nobody gets to tell us how to be women.
Not only was this a ridiculous and inaccurate statement (women wearing trousers get raped. So do women wearing tracksuits, t-shirts, jeans, jumpers, skiing jackets and burqas), it was incredibly damaging to women around the world, painting them as perpetrators - rather than victims - of a disgusting, violent crime. In addition, it completely erased the experiences of the millions of brave, strong women who have survived rape and sexual assault - painting them as human beings unworthy of respect.
Sadly, this is not a single, isolated incident. All over the world, women are constantly made to feel like victims, told they should not look a certain way, should not go out at night, should not go into certain areas, should not get drunk, should not wear high heels or make up, should not be alone with someone they don’t know. Not only does this divert attention away from the real cause of the crime - the perpetrator - but it creates a culture where rape is OK, where it’s allowed to happen… after all, she must have been asking for it, right?
NO. Let’s raise our voices and tell the world that rape is never, ever OK. Not if she was wearing a miniskirt. Not if she was naked. Not if she was your wife, girlfriend or friend. Not if she was a prostitute. Not if she was drunk. Not if you thought she wanted to.
Let’s end a culture of fear and victimisation. No means No - but rather than saying no, let’s say YES. Yes to wearing what you want, going where you want with who you want and being able to express your personal sexuality in whichever way you please. Yes to having a great time without being scared that every man you meet is going to assault you. Yes to love, fun and respect.
Slutwalk is coming to London!
So let’s turn up, give the world a message and have some fun! Meet at Trafalgar Square on Saturday 4th June at 1pm. Everyone is welcome - all genders, races, ages and sexualities. Bring friends and family, banners, food and instruments, and come along feeling beautiful, ready to show the world that SLUT is something to be proud of!
We are part of a global movement of Slutwalks
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