When Cuesta College student Ashley Riddell learned about a Toronto-based sexual assault movement called SlutWalk, she was immediately inspired to challenge society’s approach to victims on the Central Coast.
In April, she contacted the Toronto event’s organizers and began organizing a SlutWalk event, which is now planned for 3 p.m. Saturday at Osos and Buchon streets in San Luis Obispo.
“ ‘Slut’ is a term that’s frequently used to justify violence against women. It’s so toxic and harmful, and gives criminals and bad people the idea that it’s OK to hurt women,” Riddell, 20, said. “We are reclaiming that word and saying that no word is an excuse to hurt anyone.”
After reports of three rapes involving Cal Poly students were announced earlier this month, Riddell said it was all the more reason for residents to hear SlutWalk’s message.
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 the 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 walk in Santa Cruz on May 15 where about 400 people took part.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 130 people had signed up for the San Luis Obispo event.
Organizers with the Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention Center of SLO County plan to be on hand to distribute information, although they are not affiliated with SlutWalk.
“We believe that events that raise awareness about sexual assault and get our community talking about victim-blaming are a good thing,” SARP Development Director Megan Mastache said.
While the title of the event may raise questions, Riddell said reactions have “been positive for the most part.”
Once she’s able to share information with those who question the event, the Cayucos resident said critics become more understanding.
“The only negative feedback I have received has been from people who honestly don’t realize that victim blaming is prevalent,” she said.
“To those responses, I stand with the statement that making any excuses about how someone should or should not behave to avoid assault makes excuses for violent criminals and gives them a social license to operate.”
Sexual assault victims and their supporters are invited to participate.
Those interested in signing up can visit facebook.com/slutwalksanluisobispo or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration is free.
Participants are encouraged to make signs and posters with a peaceful message.