A crowd of provocatively dressed women is expected Saturday in Palmer Park as the Detroit SlutWalk gathers to take back the word “slut” and bring awareness to sexual and domestic violence.
The transnational march calls for an end to the “rape culture” of blaming victims for being raped or assaulted because of their appearance.
The last SlutWalk to march through Detroit was in 2012 and the nonprofit Metro-Detroit Political Action Network and event co-organizers said they felt it was imperative to host another.
“Especially in the last few years, we’ve had a lot more press about domestic violence, sexual assault experiences at college campuses ... it’s needed now more than ever,” said Robert Felding, the political action network’s media director.
The Slutwalk will take place from 1-4 p.m. Saturday, with marchers heading down Woodward Avenue. Similar walks are also planned for Chicago and Toronto.
The anti-rape movement quickly organized through social media in 2011 after a Toronto police officer told women to “avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” The walks have taken place across the U.S. and in Canada.
The police officer’s comments were made in January 2011 to a group of York University students at a safety forum. Although he later apologized, his comments were widely criticized.
“The highlight of the event is going to be empowerment for attendees and awareness for people who don’t know we are coming,” said Brianna Dee Kingsley, chair of Transgender Engagement for the Trans Sistas of Color Project-Detroit.
Kingsley said it upsets her that the word “slut” makes people cringe and the word “rape” doesn’t. Kingsley’s group formed in 2015 in response to a growing number of murders of trans women and gender non-conforming individuals. It works to uplift trans women of color in Metro Detroit, according to the group’s Facebook page.
“Too many assign blame because of what victims were wearing, what were they doing, how they looked and because they didn’t do anything to prevent the assault,” Kingsley said. “If someone can be blamed for the assault for being a slut then we are all sluts too. We’re taking back the word.”
Speakers and organizers are set to take part in a rally prior to the walk including Fatima Salman, host of 910AM’s Between the Lines, Jeynce Poindexter Mizrahi, a transgender specialist and founding member of the Trans Sistas, group and Democrat Bill Cobbs, a candidate for governor. A full list can be found online.
More than a dozen outreach organizations for victims of violence and harassment are also expected to attend including Haven, a Detroit shelter, WC Safe, a center providing trauma-informed care to sexual assault survivors in Wayne County, and the Scotsdale Women's Center, a Detroit, pro-choice family planning center.
Avery Grey, a 21-year-old a resident of Hazel Park, will be the chant leader for the Saturday march. She’s encouraging others to attend, saying “cleavage is not consent. Consent is still mandatory.”
“It’s your body and your decision, this is a place and setting to have a voice,” she said.