Utah students host SlutWalk to change conversation about sexual assault

"Consent culture is the antidote to rape culture," Ph.D. student Coco James said during a rally aimed at changing attitudes toward rape at the University of Utah. 

A couple of dozen students united by a sociology course organized Tuesday afternoon's SlutWalk — a movement that began in 2011 after a Canadian police officer told students at a Toronto campus that women should "avoid dressing like sluts" to avoid being victimized. 

Victim-blaming and teaching abstinence-only discourages people from reporting, or makes them feel "dirty," said Autumn Barney.

"If we can change the conversation and change education and bring more awareness to the issue, hopefully we can start changing the culture here in Utah," said Barney, who is a student in the sociology class and a member of Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

She and fellow students organized the event as a project for the "Social Movements" course, but students uninvolved with the course also walked with posters saying things such as, "Don't judge yourself by what others did to you," and, "Nothing is as sexy as a yes," as Clara Somers shouted through a megaphone, "We need your voice because this will not be resolved with apathy." 

Joe Massey isn't in the class, but showed up to support the cause. As the president of Phi Delta Theta at the U., he is aware of the stereotype surrounding fraternities and sexual assault. The culture is changing, he said, but some frats still use stories of partying and girls to recruit.

That isn't the case at Utah, said Massey, where the frats aren't allowed to have alcohol at recruitment events, or use girls to recruit members.

The students also used Tuesday's walk to get people's attention and advertise for a lecture series on Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the J. Willard Marriott Library, entitled Start by Believing. During the series, students will share personal experiences, and resources will be available to students who have been raped.

"A lot of people don't know where to go, how reporting works, and who to go to, and who you can go to as a confidential reporter versus a mandatory reporter," said Bella Paolucci.

Mandatory reporters, such as faculty, legally have to report sexual assaults. But students can seek advice and resources from and talk to confidential reporters ­— licensed counselors and victim advocate, for example ­— before deciding whether to report assault.

This piece originally appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune. Click here to read the original article.


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