Toronto’s first ‘Slutwalk’ attracts thousands of supporters

More than 1,000 protestors hit the streets on Sunday for Toronto’s first “Slutwalk”, organized in response to controversial comments made by a police constable earlier this year.

Women gathered at Queen’s Park, many holding colourful signs with bold statements condemning victimizing woman, such as “No one asks to be assaulted,” or “Rape is not a compliment.”  Male supporters — boyfriends, fathers and friends — attended as well.

“Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no,” the crowded chanted as they walked toward Toronto Police headquarters, condemning the idea that the way a woman dresses puts her at risk of sexual violence.

A Toronto Police constable told York University students at a safety seminar Jan. 24 that they could avoid sexual assault by not dressing like “sluts”.

He later apologized.

Sonya Barnett, co-founder of the walk, said that his apology isn’t enough. She said “his remarks point to a more systematic problem along the police force,” that blames victims of sexual assault.

She said the attitudes are one of the main reasons sexual assault is very underreported.

“With sexual assault already a heavily underreported crime, we need and expect better,” Barnett said.

She said police forces need to offer better training for their officers, and they need to reach out to the community to educate others.

Barnett said that she wanted to open up a conversation with Toronto Police Services to deal with “slut-shaming” in a better way.

Closing speeches at Toronto Police headquarters were given by Deb Singh from the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, Michael Kaufman from the White Ribbon Campaign, Slutwalk York Liaison, and Jane Doe, a woman who sued the Toronto police in 1998 after being used as bait to capture a rapist.

Heather Jarvis, co-founder of the walk, ended the event by saying “Slutwalk” will be going global, with events happening in many places across Canada, and possibly in the States.

”An apology is not enough. We don’t want lip service. We want change.”