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Slutwalks Move to Cleveland, Cincinnati

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Cincinnati- from – It’s not about the slinky, and sometimes kinky, lingerie, fishnets and stilettos, the marchers wear, SlutWalk organizers say. It’s about exposing a culture of rape that makes the victims feel their actions warranted the assault.

“We want to get the word out that it’s not the fault of the victims,” said Cincinnati SlutWalk organizer Tiffany Clark. “It doesn’t matter what you wear.”

SlutWalkers hope to march on Fountain Square this fall, but Clark said she is waiting to finalize a corporate sponsorship before setting a date. A tentative date of Sept. 24 for the march has been scrapped. While it’s called a march, the events have become more like rallies. Clark envisions speakers and booths calling attention to women’s rights.

Marsha Croston, director of the Women’s Crisis Center in Northern Kentucky, says the stripping down to skivvies approach of marchers has left rape victim advocates in Kentucky conflicted.

“Speaking strictly from a personal point of view, I believe the SlutWalk concept further polarizes opposing perceptions and doesn’t create an atmosphere where a dialogue can take place which would promote meaningful social change,” Croston said.

While Clark admits the concept can be abrasive to some, she said the name stems from the movement’s birth in Canada.

A Toronto police officer in January told a group of students attending a crime-prevention talk, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” The officer later apologized, but a global movement, nourished by social media posts, was born.

The first SlutWalkers started off in Toronto in early April. Clark, a 31-year-old mother of two from Erlanger, learned about it after a friend posted something on his Facebook page about a march in Seattle. It has since spread to Argentina, England, Australia and India.

There is a march scheduled on Aug. 27 in Cleveland.

Women Helping Women Executive Director Kendall Fisher said she can understand why organizers chose the name and approach: It gets people’s attention, something that is not always easy thing to do with sexual assault.

“It doesn’t matter what a person wears or what they dress like, where they go, what they do,” she said. “Nothing gives somebody else the right sexually assault them. We are 100 percent on board with that.”

But Fisher quickly adds Women Helping Women, the only rape crisis center in Hamilton County, isn’t affiliated with or been contacted by the Cincinnati organizers.

Megan O’Bryan, CEO of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, said anything that draws attention to the problem is a good thing, even if the methods are unique.

“SlutWalks are one way to spread the anti-rape message,” O’Bryan said. “They are not the only way to spread the message and may or may not be the best way to spread the message, but at least it’s being said in a very public way that we will not tolerate sexual violence.”

The FBI reports that the rape rates per 100,000 women for Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, Kenton and Boone counties are higher than their respective state’s rape rate.

But accurate statistics are hard to get because there is no comprehensive or coordinated system to collect accurate and reliable data on violence against women, according to a 2004 study on issues affecting women published by The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. The report stated that a large number of women do not report their victimization to law enforcement or seek services and victims still experience barriers to services for a variety of reasons.

“There is no reason why we can’t organize a march in Cincinnati,” Clark said. “There’s an interest and need.”

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