About 30 Central Coast men and women with hand-made signs gathered Saturday afternoon to take a stand against sexual violence at the SlutWalk event at Mitchell Park.
“We are reclaiming that word and saying that no word is an excuse to hurt anyone,” organizer and Cuesta College student Ashley Riddell said in a phone interview about why she brought the event to San Luis Obispo.
The first SlutWalk began in April when a Toronto police officer said that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized,” according to that original event’s website at www.slutwalktoronto.com.
The walks have since sprung up in cities throughout the United States and across the globe, including a May 15 walk in Santa Cruz where about 400 people took part.
One of Saturday’s event participants, Templeton High School senior Kate Ashely, 17, said she has been following the SlutWalk phenomenon on the Internet. When she heard that there would be one in San Luis Obispo, she knew she had to go. She brought her mother and one of her four sisters with her.
She said at her high school she hears a lot of talk that seems to blame women when they are sexually assaulted. She said she hears things like “she should have known better.” She hopes the walk will help remind people that it is never a woman’s fault when she is raped or assaulted.
Before the group started its march down Higuera Street, Riddell stood on a picnic table and spoke about what she described as a societal problem of blaming the victim.
“Everyone knows rape is wrong,” she said. “It is always on the perpetrator’s shoulders.”
The crowd cheered several times as she spoke. Ten minutes later, they were walking through downtown as Riddell led a chant: “However we dress, wherever we go, no means no.”
Saturday’s walk was in part prompted by reports of three rapes involving Cal Poly students earlier this month, Riddell said.