So some of the readers of this blog may know that before I started my work in Diversity and Social Justice education, I worked predominantly in Sexual Assault Education. It was in Sexual Assault Education that I honed my skills as a facilitator because, as one may imagine, facilitating about sexual assault and rape at a Big Ten university where more than 1 in 5 undergrads* were part of the Greek system is not the easiest feat. 

While I no longer work in sexual assault, I am always drawn to critical pieces about sexual assault and rape culture and the efforts that are being made to address those issues. I am SO SO SO HAPPY to be able to share one of those pieces with you. You should count yourself lucky because this piece is about to get leaked to Feministing and Ms. blogs but you'll be able to say that you saw it here first before it was huge - and I know how you hipsters like to say shit like that.

About the author: JS is a fabulous woman who I not only worked with in Undergrad but also who I consider one of my greatest friends and mentors. She is sarcastic, funny, but also one of the most genuine and sincere women that I have ever met. She has one of the fiercest personalities and she uses it almost daily, which is why I love her so. 

*I should say that Greek Life doesn't inherently mean Sexual Assault and I'm in no way trying to taint Greek Life with Sexual Assault. However, there is certainly a fraternity culture that provides resistance to teaching about rape culture and sexual assault. Some of the most active male allies I've ever met are upstanding Greek men who have also encountered resistance from their frat brother. justsayin'.

So without further ado, JS and her Thoughts on SlutWalk:

As a sexual violence prevention educator, I find hope in the grassroots activism and passion that radiates from Slutwalk.  Anything that gets people talking, that breaks down the myths and reduces victim shaming is a step in the right direction. This activism is so badly needed in a society that still justifies violent victimization by what women are wearing or how they choose to spend their Friday nights.  The photos of women clad in sneakers, jeans and comfy t-shirts carrying signs that read “this is what I was wearing when I was raped” make my heart ache.  But after reading all of the discussion, I’m left wondering if there’s a place for me in Slutwalk.
Much has been written about Slutwalk, and the problematic nature of the word “slut.”  Many women of color, in particular, have made it clear that they don’t want to reclaim the word slut because of the way their sexuality has been constructed throughout America’s racist history.  As a woman in a wheelchair, I have a very different problem: the word slut has never been mine to reclaim.

While women all over the world are waiting for people to stop seeing them as sex objects, women with disabilities are still waiting to be seen at all.  We are less than a woman, somehow-- less than “slut”. Too often we are viewed as pitiable, pathetic, and devoid of desire.   We could never be “sluts.”  If we are “lucky enough” to have partners, they get congratulations and pats on the back from strangers when they “take us out” in public.  People applaud their generosity and selflessness for taking care of us, assuming they get nothing in return (certainly not sex or satisfying intimate connections).  People imagine we are loved “in spite of” our disabilities rather than for all the other things we are.  We struggle to find doctors who will monitor our pregnancies and help deliver our babies because it’s “dangerous” for us to be mothers.
But that doesn’t mean we’re any safer.  Women with disabilities face extremely high rates of sexual assault.  More than half of us will be raped and studies estimate that the figure is closer to 70 to 80 percent for women with developmental disabilities. We’re also more likely than women without disabilities to face multiple perpetrators.  Sometimes, these perpetrators even tell us we should be grateful, that they have done us a favor.  After all, no one else is going to want us.  Despite these astronomical rape figures we have almost no credibility in the criminal justice system.  No one could imagine why anybody would do that to “someone like us”.  They tell us that we can’t be trusted to tell our own stories of terror.  They speculate about our ability to even understand what has been done to us. 

This is why it’s absolutely crucial for women with disabilities to have a voice in SlutWalk.  While “reclaiming slut” isn’t for me, I think SlutWalk should be about more than that.  It’s about demanding that all women be allowed to embrace their sexuality, voice our outrage when someone violates us, and be heard loud and clear when we do it.    

Thanks, JS, for these powerful words that give me something to think about. 

Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have the people I have in my life?

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