Downtown Last Weekend, SlutWalk Urges End to Victim-Blaming Culture Surrounding Rape

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About a hundred women and men rallied up at the JFK Memorial Plaza over the weekend for Dallas's very own SlutWalk, a stroll through downtown to fight the popular notion that it's fair to blame a woman for anything from cat-calls to sexual assault based on how she's dressed.

In tank tops, bras, fishnets and heels -- but mostly T-shirts and jeans -- the crowd made its point for passing drivers with signs like, "Blame the system, not the victim," and, more to the point, "Proud slut."

Back at the plaza, speakers took turns at a megaphone to urge a change in a culture that blames victims for their rape because of how they're dressed, because they'd been drinking or because of some other aspect of their lifestyle. Some told personal stories about how they'd been judged after being raped. Others told the crowd to watch out for the more common, public ways women are judged for how they're dressed. "If you hear somebody slut-shaming, you call them on it," said Jeffrey Lawson, speaking in high-heeled boots, a miniskirt and a purple corset.

Another woman said the day's message was especially important to her because of her job. "There's a lot of us that work in an industry that's sexual in nature," she said. "Just because you take your clothes off for money, doesn't invite sexual assault."

"I think that's the real discourse that we're taught growing up, that women are objects," said Elizabeth Webb, who organized the event -- and who gets a lengthy mention in the Huffington Post's look at SlutWalks nationwide. Webb said it's a particularly important time to raise this issue here, following the serial gang-rape of an 11-year-old girl in Cleveland, Texas, and the victim-blaming attitudes that surfaced in media coverage of the crime.

The run on SlutWalks -- there's one coming up in Austin in June, Webb said -- began in Canada, after a Toronto cop gave some law school students a little of his own safety philosophy: "Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized," which probably sounded less condescending in the original French.

Here in Dallas last fall, you'll recall, DPD Chief David Brown pinned a 25 percent uptick in rape stats on increasing date rape, and said the answer was an "awareness education campaign" about not getting raped after you've been drinking. (Now, it looks more like better reporting of rape cases is what's really behind that increase.)

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