In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the tragic murder of 22-year old Eurydice Dixon earlier this year, the eighth annual SlutWalk March took to the streets of Melbourne’s CBD on November 17.
Aiming to “make a unified statement about sexual assault victims’ rights and to demand respect for all”, the inclusive event owes its origins to a comment made by a Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti in 2011, reportedly saying during a speech on health and safety, “You know, I think we’re beating around the bush here. I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”
The response to Sanguinetti’s comments in Toronto kick-started a global movement, which has seen SlutWalk events take to the streets of such cities as Toronto, Los Angeles and Melbourne.
The event, which markets itself as a bipartisan, peaceful protest encouraging the participation of people from all races, genders and backgrounds, relies entirely on the work of volunteers and has grown considerably since it began in 2011.
This year’s march saw an increase in volunteers and participants, with the prominence of the #MeToo movement and the recent high-profile deaths of women such as Eurydice Dixon casting a spotlight on issues surrounding ‘rape culture’.
The SlutWalk community created signs and banners together at Melbourne’s State Library before marchers made their way down Swanston Street towards Federation Square, passing the site of the recent Bourke Street terror attack and bringing some of Melbourne’s busiest city streets to a standstill.
The event was not without its opposition, as some on-lookers appeared to jeer participants. Right-wing antagonist Neil Erikson was arrested during the event after attempting to cause a disruption.
With many survivors of sexual violence among the marchers, event organisers and volunteers were quick to respond to any dissent or opposition, and participants were able to march peacefully.
“It went really well,” event organiser Tiara said. “We had some worries about troublemakers, as you do with events like this that support women and marginalised people, but everything was under control.”
“And everyone has just been so supportive and coming together as a big community. As we walked down Melbourne we picked up people from the streets who just wanted to show their support as well, so that’s been a really lovely reminder that our work at SlutWalk is still so important and that there’s so many people who still support us.”