Thousands March In 'SlutWalk' Rally
“I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this, however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
A statement made by Toronto Police Const. Michael Sanguinetti when he and another officer from 31 Division conducted a York University safety forum discussion at Osgoode Hall on January 24th. A comment that sparked anger which has spread throughout the population via twitter, Facebook, and numerous other websites, and has led to today's rally.
The "SlutWalk" rally, as it's called, saw thousands of sign waving protestors dressed in stockings, miniskirts, and high heels chanting "Sluts are us!" and "Yes means yes and no means no" as they marched from Queens Park to Toronto Police headquarters.
The protesters called on police to stop blaming the victims of rape and make changes in the way rape cases are handled.
"It isn't what you're wearing that matters, it's that cops, and indeed rapists, will assess you whatever you wear", Toronto Star Columnist Heather Mallick stated.
At the beginning of the march Co-event organizer Sonya Barnett stated, "We are here because we have had enough, enough of being told that we should be ashamed of ourselves, ashamed of our appearance, ashamed of our pleasure, and ashamed of being victimized."
She went on to say, "We're here to call foul on our protective services who instead of making us feel safe make us second guess whether we should call them at all in our time of need."
SlutWalk Co-founder Heather Jarvis said, "After the incident on the York campus we said an apology is not enough. We don’t want lip service we want change."
Among the speakers were Deb Singh of the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, Michael Kaufman of the White Ribbon Campaign Alyssa Teekah, SWTO York Liaison and Jane Doe.
A feminist, activist, and author of the book 'The Story of Jane Doe', Jane Doe was awarded $220,000 in a civil lawsuit against Toronto Police in July 1998 for failing to warn her about the serial rapist stalking her neighbourhood.
"I was sleeping in my bed when I was raped with the door locked. Rape is about power and violence", Jane Doe stated.
She said, "The police training they are getting now on sexual assault simply is not adequate."
She also challenged Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to bring changes in the way Police handle rape cases.
"We want Mr. Mayor Rob Ford to stand up and demand the Police department reinstitute the work they have done on looking at training" She continued, "We want training for our Police Officers that is led by experts in the field"
A publication ban prevents the use of her real name or photos. She is publicly known only as Jane Doe.
So, back to Michael Sanguinetti's 'suggestion'......
Sure he may have blurted it out rather crudely and it may also have been taken out of context but, the truth of the matter is Const. Sanguinetti has a somewhat valid point, and I say this while believing he doesn’t blame any rape victims.
Sanguinetti, who is now labelled as a woman hater, could have chosen his words more wisely. He could have said, if one dresses in an attractive or alluring manner one might draw the attention of someone less desirable to ones self which may end unfavourably. Anything other than "women should avoid dressing like sluts" would have been better.
One argument to this is there are the cases of babies and the elderly who have been raped. Cases which I'm sure had nothing to do with clothing; it's an added reminder of how sick some can be.
We live in a society which unfortunately includes some very undesirable people and within this society we are sometimes forced to take measures to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Like when we lock our doors or install alarms, or how some folks take self defence classes, or how we as parents make sure our young children make it to and from school safely. And of course how we help them choose the appropriate attire when they reach the delicate teenage years. We all do this in some form or another and we do it in an attempt to avoid future problems.
Is it our fault we may become victims at some point in our lives? Definitely not. Is it bad that we have to take this approach to make sure we and our loved ones are safe? Of course it is. Do we like it? Of course not. But it's an absolute must. If we fail to do so even for a moment it could be devastating.
It would be great if we lived in a world where we didn’t have to worry about locking our doors or installing alarms or the possibility of having a sexual predator lurking about. Sadly this isn’t the case. We do live in such a world so it only makes sense to try and avoid certain situations to the best of out abilities.
It was said to my by one woman, "We have to take responsibility for our own actions and how we act."
According to the Toronto Star, on Feb 17 Sanguinetti wrote an email apology stating that his "comment was poorly thought out and did not reflect the commitment of the Toronto Police Service to the victims of sexual assaults."
Numerous SlutWalk rallies were planned to take place across the country.