Students, some donning heels, fur coats and fishnet tights and brandishing signs declaring statements like “My body is not public,” gathered at Jackson Plaza on Thursday, April 4, for Willamette’s 2019 SlutWalk. This walk is part of an international feminist movement, in which groups march in protest of slut shaming and rape culture. The event was organized by SHAPE, or Sexual Health Activism and Prevention Education. SHAPE, which was formed this year, is a student-led committee that organizes events to raise awareness about sexual violence and preventative measures a community can take against this violence.
Daphne Van Veen-Koch (‘19) is the student coordinator of SHAPE and helped to organized SlutWalk. Before the walk, Van Veen-Koch explained the purpose of the day’s event.
“We are here today to empower students and survivors, create community and continue the conversations about sexual violence,” she told the crowd on the Plaza.
According to Van Veen-Koch, slutwalks have been a trend since 2011, when a Toronto police officer said about a survivor of sexual violence, “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this. However, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Slutwalks formed in response to this officer’s slut shaming.
“Slut shaming is when women or anyone associated with having a marginalized gender identity is criticized for their real or perceived sexual activity,” explained Van Veen-Koch before the walk. “Slut shaming… is harmful because it perpetuates rape culture and sexual violence.”
Van Veen-Koch’s remarks ended with the resounding statement, “We need consent, we need sex and, most of all, we need respect,” which the marchers responded to with cheers.
The marchers set off from Jackson Plaza and began to walk a loop around campus, all the while chanting phrases like, “Survivors united, we’ll never be divided.” “Show me what a slutwalk looks like!” yelled one participant in the group, to which the other marchers responded, with equal fervor, “This is what a slutwalk looks like!”
As the group marched down Winter Street, cars honked their horns in support. The final stretch of the walk passed in front of the University Center, where a large group of prospective students had gathered after their Colloquium Group meetings. SlutWalk was held during the second Bearcat Days of the semester, so several visiting students were able to watch part of the march, and many of them cheered on the walkers.
After the walk, one participant, Nia Lopez-Salmons (‘22), said, “I think it’s so perfect that it’s during [Bearcat] Days.” Lopez-Salmons hoped that seeing a demonstration like SlutWalk would encourage younger student-activists to attend Willamette.
Jessie Evans (‘22) also attended the walk. “Showing support for survivors is a very important goal of mine,” said Evans. “It’s what I want to do in the future, as a career, so coming out today and showing support for survivors and ending rape culture is really important for me.”
SlutWalk 2019 is one of many events SHAPE plans to organize. As Van Veen-Koch put it, SHAPE aims to empower students and create a culture centering consent by engaging with other groups on campus. Part of SHAPE’s mission is to work in tandem with other student organizations to hold fundraisers or events.
“Who’s responsible for addressing sexual violence?” she asked. “When it’s a shared effort among many people, it changes and becomes a priority issue.”
SHAPE is seeking new members and volunteers. To get involved, students may email Van Veen-Koch at email@example.com or the Gender Resource and Advocacy Center (GRAC) at firstname.lastname@example.org. SHAPE meets every Wednesday from 4:15-5:00 p.m. at the GRAC (formerly known as the Montag Loft). Van Veen-Koch said weekly attendance is not necessarily required of members; as long as volunteers stay in the loop about SHAPE’s activities and volunteer when necessary, they can still be valuable additions to the group.
The 2019 SlutWalk kicked off a series of related events that groups like SHAPE will be hosting in April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Tonight, Wednesday, April 10, the Gender Resource and Advocacy Center (GRAC) will host a convocation in Cone Chapel called Masculinity: A Campus Conversation. The convocation will begin at 7 p.m. On Thursday, April 25, Van Veen-Koch will lead a workshop about consent and how it should and can be applied to settings outside of the bedroom. The workshop will be held in the Loft from 7-9 p.m.
Additional resources for students:
Gender Resource and Advocacy Center (GRAC) – The Loft,
Sexual Assault Response Allies (SARA) hotline – (503) 851-4245
Andrea Hugmeyer (Confidential Advocate)