In the blazing sun and blinding heat, 50 people walked in a mass through campus holding signs and chanting “No means no!” and, “No one’s asking for it!” Amongst the signs, the chanting, the body paint and the sweat, there was a clear message: Stop victim blaming. The Slut Walk, Sept. 23, was a demonstration meant to raise awareness for sexual assault and victim blaming, but it did more than that. Not only did it call out the false stereotype the victim plays a part in sexual assault, but it also brought to the forefront the lack of awareness on campus.

Preventing Sexual Assault (PSA), the group that hosted the event, was founded last year by McLaine Rich. It was established in the hopes to eradicate the stigma against victims and to raise awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. The first annual Slut Walk at this university was one of many events PSA will host in order to keep their message in the eye of campus.

Sarah Lader, 18, freshman, Family Science major, stands unashamed with "slut" labels on her body. (Heather Kim/Bloc Reporter)
Sarah Lader, 18, freshman, Family Science major, stands unashamed with “slut” labels on her body. (Heather Kim/Bloc Reporter)

PSA’s mission incorporates education, awareness and change. In order to educate the public about these issues, PSA will have monthly themes to encompass all aspects of sexual assault. The Slut Walk falls directly into this month’s theme of victim blaming.

By having monthly themes, the group “can encompass all aspects of sexual assault and really dig deep into those aspects,” Alanna DeLeon said. DeLeon is the PSA president and a senior behavioral and community health major. “I believe that people think sexual assault is a one dimensional thing, and I think it’s important that the campus is educated in all aspects.”

The organization is not only trying to educate students about the many different aspects of sexual assault, but also trying to implement change in the reporting process.

Participants stop and reflect as they listen to different individuals speak on instances of sexual assault and victim blaming. (Heather Kim/Bloc Reporter)
Participants stop and reflect as they listen to different individuals speak on instances of sexual assault and victim blaming. (Heather Kim/Bloc Reporter)

“A goal of the organization this year is to establish relationships with offices on campus that deal with the reporting process, such as the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct as well as the Office of Student Conduct,” DeLeon said. “We’re also working on creating a relationship with the Student Government Association so that we’re getting advice and views from the administrations as well as the student body. By doing this, we can work together and make a change.”

PSA is fervently trying  to change the campus culture for greater good. They do not want our campus to fall into the statistics of American campuses where sexual assault runs rampant.

“Coming from a student perspective and making a change from the inside out will make the administration see where we’re coming from” Rachel Novick, the events coordinator for the group said.

Patricia Kolbe, 20, senior, Psychology major, takes a break from being on the front lines and poses with her sign in support of PSA and its efforts. (Heather Kim/Bloc Reporter)
Patricia Kolbe, 20, senior, Psychology major, takes a break from being on the front lines and poses with her sign in support of PSA and its efforts. (Heather Kim/Bloc Reporter)

Another aspect the group is implementing this year is the role of a victim advocate. This position is designed as a direct resource for those who have experienced sexual assault. Elizabeth Bergman, the victim advocate for the group, is extensively trained with listening skills, knowledge of the reporting process and the different perspectives that are important when dealing with these situations.cf

“You learn to get comfortable with talking about really upsetting things,” Bergman said. “When you’re advocating for someone, you need to be empathetic but you can’t cry because you don’t want to take away from them and their healing.”

Participants stop to listen and reflect on more anecdotes and the proceed to take a group photo on the steps of the Administration building. (Heather Kim/Bloc Reporter)
Participants stop to listen and reflect on more anecdotes and the proceed to take a group photo on the steps of the Administration building. (Heather Kim/Bloc Reporter)

Bergman’s information is on the business cards in hopes that if someone is having a problem they will contact her and she will be able to help them in the process. “I’m just here to make sure that they have the best opportunity to heal,” explained Bergman.

The main goal for the organization is to educate any and everyone on the subject of sexual assault. The Slut Walk, alongside other events the group will be hosting, is a step toward education and towards an overall understanding of the gravity of sexual assault. No more victim blaming. No more jokes. Only understanding, education and prevention of sexual assault.

As DeLeon puts it, “Everyone should be a resource for everyone.”

Featured Photo Credit: Students continue to shout, their intensity filling the atmosphere and raising awareness regarding issues of sexual assault. (Heather Kim/Bloc Reporter)

Monica is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at mpizzo@terpmail.umd.edu.

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