'SlutWalk' organized to protest officer's comments
Published Sunday, April 3, 2011 7:58PM EDT
Thousands of protesters came out to Queen's Park Sunday to rally against comments made by a police officer at York University's Osgoode Hall in January.
The protestors swept through the streets wearing whatever they wanted, condemning the notion that suggestive dressing is an invitation to assault.
"Just cause I'm a slut doesn't mean I want to be raped," said one female protester.
"Anyone can be a slut. The most respected, powerful woman can be degraded down to nothing because of what she's wearing," said another woman.
The walk was organized by students and staff who became furious after a member from the 31st division of the Toronto police told a group of students at a campus safety information session that they could avoid assaults on campus by not dressing like a slut.
Organizers of the walk said on their website, slutwalktoronto.com, that they are "tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault."
Coordinators demanded that the Toronto police force take serious steps to regain their trust. "We want to feel that we will be respected and protected should we ever need them, but more importantly be certain that those charged with our safety have a true understanding of what it is to be a survivor of sexual assault — slut or otherwise," they wrote.
Heather Jarvis, a co-founder of the Slut Walk movement, wrote that "we should be beyond the myths of people ‘asking' or ‘deserving' to be assaulted due to their behaviour or appearance."
Mark Pugash, the director of corporate communications for the Toronto Police, said the community expects police members to conduct themselves with diligence, professionalism and integrity.
Pugash said that the comments made by Const. Michael Sanguinetti to students "were completely unacceptable and did not reflect the way the TPS trains and teaches its officers."
He said that officials gave many detailed interviews after the incident.
"They made it clear that the officer's comments were completely unacceptable, and that they clashed with the way the TPS trains its members," he said.
"If that type of, frankly, archaic thinking still exists among any of my officers, it highlights for me the need to continue to train my officers and sensitize them to the reality of victimization,' said Toronto police chief William Blair.
Blair said the officer's comments "place the blame upon victims, and that's not where the blame should ever be placed."
The walk began with speeches at Queen's Park and moved towards Toronto Police Headquarters, at 40 College St.
Organizers had expected hundreds of participants to show up but thousands showed up instead.
"If we know statistically that half of women experience sexual assault in their lifetime then it makes sense that so many people are out here," said Deb Singh, a representative of the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre.
Johnson reports that even beyond Toronto, the movement is gaining momentum. Ottawa and London, Ont. have planned their own versions of the grassroots march.
With files from CTV's Natalie Johnson.