GVSU continues to fight to end victim blaming
In observation of Sexual Assault Awareness Week, Grand Valley State University’s It’s on Us as Lakers held a "Slut Walk" Saturday, April 7, in an effort to protest rape culture and support sexual assault survivors. The event encouraged attendees to wear whatever they wanted and to bring signs saying whatever they wanted.
The "SlutWalk" movement was initiated in 2011 after a police officer from Toronto visited Osgoode Hall Law School to advise students on personal safety. According to The Guardian, this officer, Michael Sanguinetti, told students, "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this—however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."
"SlutWalking" has since become a popular form of protest practiced around the world. Women join together to walk in protest, wearing outfits that range from jeans and a T-shirt to bras and underwear. The idea that a woman's choice of clothing could encourage sexual assault against them is not only severely misguided, but it actually promotes rape culture. It places the blame on the victim and essentially excuses the actions of the perpetrator.
This type of visual demonstration brought forth in "SlutWalking" confronts stereotypes of slut-shaming and victim blaming, challenges people's perceptions and opens up a powerful conversation. Considering the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses specifically, the message behind the movement is an important one to bring to GVSU.
This isn’t the first effort to end victim blaming that has occurred on GVSU’s campus, either. Just last month, It's on Us as Lakers implemented a “What Were You Wearing?” exhibit in the Mary Idema Pew Library Exhibition Space. This display was made up of outfits representing what women were wearing at the time of their assaults, conveying that what a woman is wearing doesn’t matter when it comes to sexual assault.
Another event held in participation of Sexual Assault Awareness Week took place Thursday, April 5. GVSU’s Campus for Consent held a round-table discussion tackling the topic of rape culture. The event looked at how rape culture is normalized by society, the attitudes and stereotypes that perpetuate the cycle of sexual assault, and how we can join together as a community to stop rape culture.
GVSU's administration has also taken a strong stance against sexual assault. In February, President Thomas Haas sent out an email to the entire campus community regarding a review of the university's sexual misconduct policy and practice. In the email, Haas referenced GVSU's ongoing commitment to preventing sexual violence.
In the same email, Haas also announced GVSU's decision to move forward with a search for a new full-time victim advocate. He ended the email by saying, "Your safety is my top priority. My Cabinet and I will continue to be directly engaged in creating an even safer Grand Valley, and will update you regularly."
GVSU administration, departments and student organizations should be commended for their continued efforts to crush victim blaming, snuff out rape culture in our communities and provide support for victims. By definition, rape and sexual assault are never the fault of the victims. It's time to end that toxic association forever, and that starts with us right here at GVSU.