A march in D.C. against rape

By Heather Kangas

WASHINGTON, D.C.--More than 1,000 activists gathered outside the White House August 13 to march for an end to sexual violence and victim blaming as part of D.C. SlutWalk.

The SlutWalk marches ignited after a Toronto police officer's comment that if women want to avoid being raped, they should refrain from "dressing like sluts." D.C. SlutWalk comes in the wake of SlutWalk marches that have taken place nationally and globally, including in Berlin, which had its own SlutWalk the same day.

The large group of marchers included women; men, children, survivors of sexual assault, high school students, college students, socialists, members of the LGBT community and members of the deaf community.

"I came to SlutWalk because of the backward attitudes toward sexuality that are damaging to women, men and LGBT people," said Hayden, a senior at Lake Braddock High School in Northern Virginia and member of Students for a Democratic Society. "I am hoping SlutWalk leads to a revitalization of the women's movement and starts something new."

The march from the White House to the Washington Monument featured chants including "Gay, straight, Black, white, all unite for women's rights" and "Abortion, rape kits--we want more. Reproductive health for rich and poor!" Some marchers dressed in more revealing clothing, while others carried signs telling their personal stories of sexual violence.

Longtime local affordable housing organizer Linda Leaks, who organized similar anti-violence demonstrations in the 1980s, said she came out to the march because we are still facing a huge amount of violence today. "I am excited to see women in the streets again, raising their voices again. We need to stay vigilant or things will revert back and become even worse."

After the march, participants gathered for a rally featuring speakers from Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), GetEQUAL, Stop Street Harassment, as well as survivors of sexual violence.

In a speech, members of GetEQUAL D.C. announced that they are launching a campaign to target the police department for its lack of response to hate crimes in the city. Just days before the march, an article in the Washington Post revealed a recent hate crime committed against a group of lesbians that was initially not recorded as a hate crime or investigated by police. Similar instances have occurred over the past few months without any changes in training or procedure by the police.

Currently, only 3 percent of the D.C. police receive optional training on issues affecting the LGBT community--even though 60 percent of hate crimes committed in D.C. target LGBT people.

Many speakers addressed other local issues that impact women and the LGBT community, such as the recent murders of transgender women and activists, the lack of rape kits in D.C. hospitals and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that bans the District from using its own money to fund abortions for low-income women.

The D.C. International Socialist Organization (ISO) mobilized a contingent for the march and helped author the political demands adopted by organizers of the march.

SlutWalk D.C. organizer and ISO DC member Emily Brooks delivered a speech that stressed the importance of building a political movement. "While it is necessary to confront slut-shaming and victim-blaming as attacks on individuals, it is also necessary to attack the policies that protect and embolden this behavior...A change is possible, and it will come from us, not from those at the top, who have disappointed and abandoned us time and time again."

Less than 24 hours after SlutWalk D.C. had converged on the National Mall, organizers announced that SlutWalk will return to D.C. next year to continue to confront rape culture.