Blaming the victim is never acceptable
“SlutWalk” may be a rather provocative title, but it is a protest march with an admirable cause.
In January 2011, a police officer gave a lecture on crime prevention and safety for women at a university in Toronto. He said, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Women quickly denounced the remarks as inappropriately blaming the victim and staged a protest walk dressed as “sluts” in provocative outfits. Some staged performances by using their bras as jump ropes.
The movement rapidly spread to 30 countries around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden. The first SlutWalk was organized in Korea in July 2011 in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul.
As the term “slut” is so controversial, the events have attracted media attention. But still, many people do not know about the cause for which the events stand.
Repelled by the provocative title, many people shun the cause. But let’s look at why these women are staging a protest. Whenever a sexual assault case arises, the issue of revealing attire on female victims frequently comes up. It may be instinct for a straight male to feel attracted to a scantily dressed woman, but committing a crime is never acceptable. A sexual offense is not driven by sexual desire but by an urge to control. When three medical students at Korea University were convicted of sexual assault of a female classmate, the offenders distributed a survey and claimed that the victim was not well-behaved and so deserved the assault. The fact that the offenders dared raise such claims is outrageous. Regardless of how the victim behaved or what she wore, sexual assault is clearly a crime.
The protestors involved in the SlutWalk are fighting this attitude and simply want to walk freely without fear of violence or harassment. So, they march the streets with signs reading, “Wearing sexy outfits isn’t an invitation for harassment” and “We live in a society that teaches women how not to avoid rape instead of teaching others not to rape in the first place.” That’s the spirit of the SlutWalk. It’s an artistic expression not to be bound by the standards or expectations of others.
Of course, we should make sure we lock our doors to prevent theft. However, it is unreasonable to emphasize locking up without strengthening punishment for thieves. It could sound as if the one who failed to lock the door properly is more responsible than the thief.
The same premise can be applied to sexual assault. Blaming the victim for sexual assault is unacceptable and needs to stop now.
*The author is a guest columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Eom Eul-soon