Ohio Wesleyan University will host its third annual SlutWalk this week to advocate against rape culture.
The first SlutWalk was held in 2011 in Toronto, Canada, in response to a police officer’s comment that women should avoid dressing like “sluts” to prevent sexual assaults.
Nola Johnson ’14, president of Sisters United and a resident of the Women’s House small living unit, brought the event to Ohio Wesleyan in 2011. Her goals included making people aware of victim resources on campus and starting a dialogue about rape culture.
Her initial challenge was helping people to accept the event’s descriptive name. “At first, it was a controversial taboo,” Johnson says.
Two years later, Women’s House resident Audrey Bell ’15 still recalls finding the word “SlutWalk” unsettling.
“The name itself is a bit pushy,” Bell says. “So I think that the name of the walk is actually important to me personally. It’s an attention-getter. It speaks of the mission directly. … It makes me think about the word and the issue.”
This year, Bell selected the SlutWalk as her house project and has worked in cooperation with the Women’s House and Sisters United to make it happen. She chose the project because of its potential to involve many people on campus.
“The main thing that I find important … is that people have a safe place to come and discuss rape culture and discuss slut shaming and discuss the issues that surround them as people and that surround them as college students on this campus,” Bell says.
Bell and Johnson both say the reception after the November 7 walk is an important part of the event. The reception gives people time to digest information presented at the walk and to discuss it in a safe place.
Johnson says a SlutWalk alone cannot change a culture but – in combination with events such as the post-event reception and OWU’s “Take Back the Night” – it can help raise awareness and provide a better environment for everyone.
For more information about sexual assault issues, visit counseling.owu.edu/preventingSexualAssault.html.