PITTSBURG — Students marched the perimeter of Pittsburg State University Thursday chanting and carrying signs to raise awareness about sexual violence — and the aftermath of it — on college campuses.
Specifically, the students called for an end to victim blaming and shaming as an excuse for sexual assault. Marchers chanted things like “a dress is not a yes” and “my body, my choice” to highlight their stance during what organizers dubbed the “PSU SlutWalk.”
“SlutWalk was started in Canada in 2011,” Event Organizer Edin VanAnne said. “We thought it would be a good way to raise awareness about sexual violence here at Pitt State as well.”
The first SlutWalk took place in Toronto following the comments of a Toronto police officer who told college students “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized.” The event was a response by women who saw the comments as an excuse of sexual assault, making it the fault of the victim and not the perpetrator.
VanAnne and her classmates, Genevieve Ismert and Dylan Frydrychowski, were tasked with creating an on-campus event for a project in their women’s studies class. Experiences in the class led them to organize Thursday’s march for the project.
“We talked in class about assault and violence, and everyone in class had an experience to share, which really hit home,” VanAnne said.
The organizers took the opportunity to educate attendees about resources as well. A guest from Safehouse Crisis Center spoke before the march and informed attendees about the services provided by the center. She handed out informational pamphlets and said if anyone needs help they should come to Safehouse.
The organizers agreed that education and awareness were the main goals.
“It’s really about people being able to see us out here, knowing that your voice is going to be heard and you aren’t alone,” Frydrychowski said. “Anyone who was here — or saw us marching — can come up and ask us questions about the march or how to get help.”
The three also said sexual assault and harassment is prevalent on college campuses, and wanted to highlight that it does happen as PSU, not just larger schools in bigger towns.
Around 30 students took part in the march, and a small group even protested the march. Ismert said she was pleasantly surprised by the turnout.
“We weren’t sure how many people would show up, but I’m really happy,” she said. “You know you were successful when people show up to protest what you’re doing.”
The organizers encouraged everyone at the march — as well as anyone who hears about it — to come to them with any questions.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.