On Saturday, September 27, Philadelphia hosted the March To End Rape Culture. Formerly known as the “Slut Walk”, the March to End Rape Culture was hosted by the Pussy Division, Hollaback Philly, Project SAFE, Factory Girls, PAVE Philly, Permanent Wave, Take Back the Night and Fireball Printing. The name was changed last year because certain groups were not comfortable or did not want to reclaim the slur “slut”. Having changed the name, it is estimated that participation in this year’s march nearly doubled that of years past.
Every two minutes in the US, there is a rape. One in three women will be a victim of sexual violence at some point in her lifetime. One in six men will be raped before the age of 18. Sixty-four percent of trans people are victims of sexual violence. These statistics increase when the victim is a person of color.
According to the Facebook event page for the march, “Rape culture is a term used to describe a culture in which sexual violence is accepted as a part of everyday life. There are many different aspects of society that contribute to rape culture including victim blaming, rape jokes, transphobia, slut shaming, keeping survivors in silence, racism, the use of bodies as sexual objects, the sexualization of violence, lack of education around consent, intimate partner violence, homophobia, sexist media messages, the list is never ending.”
Many survivors, victims and supporters showed up to the event. After marching there were speakers and spoken word performances. Qui Alexander, Community Health Educator with the Mazzoni Center and advocate of Philly Stands Up!, reflected on the need for communities to be completely transformed, rather than just rehabilitating rapists. He called it “transformative justice” and contrasted it with what is commonly called “restorative justice.” His vision involved not just stopping rape, but transforming a culture that centers on violence, often sexual, against vulnerable people. This also means, according to Alexander, that to combat rape culture alone is not enough; we must also liberate ourselves from the multiplicitous intersecting structures of oppression also present in society: racism, misogyny, ableism, queerphobia, transphobia, transmisogyny, and classism, for instance. Alexander says that rape culture is not independent of all these other realities. For example, in reflecting on the recent hate crime in Philadelphia against two white gay cis (i.e. not trans) men, Alexander remarked, “Trans women of color get murdered every day but no one pushes for hate crime legislation.”
Alexander said that “when we prioritize vulnerable bodies, we make a move toward liberation,” which is precisely what Me Too does. Me Too is an organization that focuses on creating safe spaces for people of color to heal from the trauma of sexual assault and rape. Tarana Burke, a representative of Me Too, described Me Too’s goal: “to build a movement to radicalize healing for rape victims.” While Me Too focuses on people of color who are victims of sexual violence, they are not exclusivist. Their overall goal, as exemplified in their title, is to be a listening ear for victims of sexual violence without shifting the blame on them, regardless of race, sexuality or gender identity.
If you have been a victim of sexual violence, please tell someone you trust, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or go online to www.rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-online-hotline.
Sources: Facebook; Woar.org; Rainn.org