HOW

What began as a reaction to one comment, a reaction that we had originally imagined only to include a handful of our closest friends exploded into a movement that we never could have expected.

Our plan was to call foul on the comment made by a representative of our Toronto Police and speak to the bigger picture of common, persistent and documented victim-blaming within our Police Services. We planned to demand accountability, not apologies.¬†We wanted to make sure that the issue was kept fresh in people’s minds, which is why we aimed at April 3rd for the Walk date.

As our message grew, SWTO turned into a massive movement, and we were forced to bring on added help. We feel that our hard work over 6 weeks, along with the help of our supporters, is an immense accomplishment. With a team of 5, who are already entrenched in lives as students or fulltime work, we worked ’round the clock, keeping up with demands, working on our social media messages, creation and maintenance of the website, 40+ interviews, working on what now had to be formal requests to Police, logistics of the Walk itself including paperwork and meetings, sobbing over heartfelt stories of thanks and accounts of survivors, dealing with messages of hate, finding the right Speakers to help spread our word, delving into research about sexual assault, police and public policies, answering a million questions and requests, setting up support for Satellites, adding Allies to our own support system, setting up PrepDay and volunteer coordination, liaising with campuses, working on donations and sponsors, etc, etc, etc.

With just the 5 of us, we tried to be as inclusive as we could, reaching out to as many communities as possible. We wanted to have a diverse group of voices join our conversation, and with some perseverance, we welcomed many Allies. We were thrilled to see banners and representation from many groups at the Walk. Some groups who we reached out to either did not respond to our requests, or did not want to be part of our movement. This is their choice or is still within their hands as we don’t know why we haven’t received responses. There are many causes that work toward education and eradication of violence, and while we all work toward some common goals, people can choose which group serves them best. We want to acknowledge that sexual violence is ingrained in a system of inequality that marginalizes some over others. Different communities can have different experiences of sexual violence in higher rates of assaults, more discrimination from our services, a perception of unequal worth, and lacking protection and respect. Some of our Speakers at SlutWalk were able to comment on some of these issues acknowledging that aboriginal women and women of different abilities experience sexual assault at 2-3 times the rate of others and that sex workers are people who have long been told that they were not deserving of protection. There are many who experience oppression and discrimination unequally. While it has to be acknowledged that sexual assault and victim-blaming is a global issue affecting people from all walks of life, we want to continue welcoming as many communities as possible, having their voices heard in this conversation. For those who would like to discuss what these issues can mean for others, please feel free to contact us.

We’ve managed to spread the word that victim-blaming is a problem that needs to be addressed – within our protective services and in society as a whole. We’ve sparked thousands of conversations, as well as other initiatives, and while we are not everyone’s cup of tea, we are confident that in this short amount of time we’ve done something important and joined a movement that’s been fighting these blaming ideas for decades. We’re thrilled to have sparked others into action who feel the need to share our message under the SlutWalk banner. We’re grateful to say this cause is spreading globally with rallies taking place across Canada, into the US and as far as Australia and we fully support Satellite SlutWalks.

While we will certainly take the next little while to exhale, we now look to the future of SlutWalk, and what we can do to continue the conversation. We will continue to reach out to other groups and communities to both discuss what the issues are for them, and to increase the strength of our message. We will continue to support those who need it, whether as a Satellite, or simply as a safer forum for those who don’t have one. While we acknowledge that we are far from perfect, we are proud that we did not simply huff and move on; we made a stand. We learned a lot along the way, and will continue to do so, willingly accepting constructive criticism and advice. We will grow and mature as “SlutWalk became the little rally that could”.

If you would like to help and join the SW team, please contact us and tell how just how you feel you can add to our strength. Please be patient if you have not heard from us as we are all attempting to deal with the post-Walk frenzy.

 

Yours in solidarity,

Sonya JF Barnett, Co-Founder
Heather Jarvis, Co-Founder
Alyssa Teekah, York University Liaison
Jeanette Janzen, SWTO Researcher and Satellites Coordinator
Erika Jane Scholz, Volunteers Coordinator

 

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