Students host Slut Walk to protest rape culture, sexual assault

Protesters share stories, leave notes for Office of the Dean of Students at Peabody Hall

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University students hosted a “Slut Walk” Friday afternoon to protest rape culture and sexual assault on Grounds. Protesters walked from the Amphitheatre, to the Lawn, the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house and Brooks Hall, before ending at Peabody Hall.

Maria Dehart, a first-year College student and one of the main organizers of the event, said that “Slut Walk” movement began in Toronto, in response to a police officer who addressed rape by advising women not to dress "like sluts."

Photo: Zoe Toone
Photo: Marshall Bronfin
Photo: Zoe Toone

“There was a lot of anger,” Dehart said. “[Slut Walk] is trying to fight against this victim-blaming, slut-shaming culture we have that sexualizes women, yet shames them for being sexual. So we were trying to take the word slut, and the movement tries to turn it around and take the shame out of it.”

The University's culture around sexual assault was thrust into the national spotlight when a Rolling Stone article published Wednesday detailed several alleged sexual assaults which occurred in recent years. The piece's author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, said the University is "genteel," lacking a "radical feminist culture seeking to upend the patriarchy," and specifically noting the lack of activities such as SlutWalks, regular occurrences at some universities across the country.

"U.Va. isn't an edgy or progressive campus by any stretch," Erdely wrote in the piece.

At the Slut Walk Friday, protesters and survivors of sexual assault spoke at the different stops to share personal experiences and opinions on rape culture at the University. Protesters chanted, “My dress is not a yes,” “Whose University? Our University,” “One in Four, let’s change the score” and “You can’t get away with this.”

First-year College student Meagan Martin attended the protest to express her concern with the University administration’s reaction to the article and its methods of handling sexual assault.

“I really wish it hadn’t come out in a Rolling Stone article,” Martin said, “Other than that, I’m just really upset with the administration. I’m not trying to scapegoat fraternities or Greek life in any way, and it’s really important that we don’t do that. Other than that the administration is the problem.”

Another first-year College student, who wanted to remain anonymous, said she was concerned members of the student body were worried about the article tarnishing the University’s reputation.

“It irritates me that the student body seems to think it’s an attack on the school,” she said. “They should be more worried about the school not doing anything rather than worrying about the reputation of the school being tarnished by things that they haven’t done. They need to fix that.”

The last stop of the Slut Walk was Peabody Hall, which houses the Office of the Dean of Students. Dean of Students Allen Groves addressed protesters on the steps of Peabody Hall.

“I want to hear what you have to say, I want to listen to all of the students who want to talk to me,” Groves said. “I’m the Dean of Students, meaning my job is to support and protect you.”

DeHart said she and the other students hoped the Slut Walk would encourage survivors and other concerned students to come out and speak about sexual misconduct at the University.

“We’re going to keep on making our opinions public,” DeHart said. “Hopefully people will listen to us and we can kind of change the mindset here.”

At the end of the event, several participants wrote their thoughts on Post-it notes, which they then stuck on the doors of Peabody Hall. Some of the post-it notes read: “Don’t let us down again,” “I don’t feel protected,” and “People before tradition.”

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