By Rae Wee

Sexual assault does not just pertain to females, and neither did the Slut Walk.

The annual Slut Walk event on Oct. 19, organized by Preventing Sexual Assault, an on-campus organization advocating for victims of sexual assault, saw male students making up almost a third of participants.

“It’s definitely more than last year, and even from the PSA point of view, as an organization as a whole, male interest has increased,” Lizzie Mafrici, 19, a sophomore government and politics and women’s studies major, said.

“We’re lucky enough to have a lot of guy allies and also, on the executive board, there’s a few guys who have really gotten their frat brothers involved,” Mafrici, who is also the vice president of PSA, added.

Slut Walk, a nationwide movement that started in 2011 following comments from a Toronto police officer who said “women should avoid dressing like sluts” to prevent being sexually assaulted, was brought to the university’s grounds in 2016 by PSA.

“I believe that at the time, those who were running PSA saw an opportunity to speak out against slut shaming on our campus since it is a huge part of rape culture [at the university],” junior communication major and PSA assistant president Sophia Blake, 20, said.

This year, some 30 students marched from McKeldin Library to the administration building and then to Hornbake Library, where victims shared their experiences and the importance of the walk to them.

“However we dress, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no,” chanted the group, as they marched and held up signs that read ‘I am a slut’ and ‘Believe survivors.’

Among them was 21-year-old Benjamin Bryer, a senior public health major.

“I think that at any time there’s a social issue like this, it’s the people that have the power to do the most change,” he said. “As a man, by me taking this seriously, I have the ability to show people that the perpetrators also care about it as well.”

To others, participating in the walk also means empowering male sexual assault victims to speak up.

“I think that there are barriers to men speaking up about sexual assault — often, there’s this idea about masculinity that men shouldn’t speak up about unwanted sexual things that happen to them,” 22-year-old Eli Kane said. “So it’s definitely important for events like this to have both men and women attending.”

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in six men in the United States experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.

However, only 20.8% of sexual violence reports other than rape have been made by heterosexual men, as compared to 43.3% of heterosexual women.

“[Men] are afraid of being labelled as weak or unmanly [if they speak up], and this invisible pressure proliferates the rape culture,” Yige Liu, 17, a freshman government & politics and economics major, said. “Any sexual assault victim should feel comfortable to speak up, because their perpetrators should feel ashamed, not them.”

Moving forward, PSA hopes to spread greater awareness about sexual assault on campus and for more support to be given to the Title IX Office — the university’s Office of Civil Rights & Sexual Misconduct.

“We hope to get PSA’s name out there both as a force to be reckoned with and also as a resource for any victim of sexual assault,” said Mafrici. “Also for the school to take sexual assault a lot more seriously and for them to put more funding and resources for Title IX because it’s really important.”

Featured Photo Credit: Participants in the Slut Walk pose with their signs (Rae Wee/Bloc Reporter).

Rae Wee is a junior journalism major and can be reached at weerae97@gmail.com.

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