“Everybody has a voice”: UMD students march in annual Slut Walk

Students march at Preventing Sexual Assault's annual Slut Walk on Oct. 4, 2019. (Rachel S. Hunt/For The Diamondback)

By Bri Corley
For The Diamondback

About 25 students marched hand in hand from McKeldin Mall to Hornbake Library Friday at the University of Maryland’s annual Slut Walk.

As megaphones echoed the chants of “yes means yes and no means no,” students held poster paper emblazoned with facts and figures about sexual assault in the fourth annual event, organized by Preventing Sexual Assault, a student group that advocates for survivors of sexual assault.

Students met at the steps of McKeldin Library to make posters, and then walked to the Main Administration Building to hear a speech by Sophia Alexander, the PSA vice president. After, the group walked to Hornbake Plaza where other PSA representatives shared poems, statements, and stories published by sexual assault victims.

[Read more: UMD’s Title IX office paid more than $230k to bring on contract investigators]

While the name “Slut Walk” may seem crass at first, PSA president Sophia Blake said, using the derogatory term is about the potency it holds and using it for empowering others rather than belittling them.

“Calling this event ‘Slut Walk’ stems from the idea that we can take back the word slut and reclaim its identity,” Blake said. “It speaks to the broader notion that just because a girl is dressed a certain way, drinks a certain way or acts a certain way does not mean she was asking to be assaulted. It is about reclaiming a word that has been turned negative against women who engage in sexual behaviors.”

The march comes amid a continued staffing shortage at this university’s Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct, which tabled at the event. As of last month, the office had four open positions at the office. The university has contracted a private firm, Husch Blackwell, to help carry out investigations, and a public information request filed by The Diamondback showed this university agreed to pay over $230,000 to the firm.

[Read more: UMD investigated far fewer sexual misconduct complaints last year, despite spike in reports]

Organizers said the walk is not just about empowerment, but also giving support and resources for victims who need it.

“The statistics are actually daunting for the amount of people that are sexually assaulted,” said Binyamin Grinberg, one of the outreach vice presidents for PSA. “There’s multiple survivors who are gonna walk past today. It just gives them a signal that says: ‘We’re here for you.’”

Alex Laurenson, a member of the student advisory board for the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct committee, said he participated to help show his support.

“As students, we have a very unique ability to directly communicate with other students,” Laurenson said. “We are on the same level, so it is really easy to teach peer to peer, especially when you are so enthusiastic about the issue.”

Emma Williamson, a sophomore psychology major, said she came to send a message.

“I came to tell people that everybody has a voice,” Williamson said. “No matter your gender, your identity, your sexual orientation, you deserve to have consent, you deserve to be respected, you deserve to have every single right that any human has.”

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