Hundreds of students and activists marched around the UNM area in nothing but their underwear Saturday morning to protest rape culture.
UNM’s Women’s Resource Center and the Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico organized the event, called “SlutWalk Albuquerque.”
Rape Crisis Center Executive Director Carol McFall said the event aimed to raise awareness about rape culture. She said that in cases of sexual violence, society too often blames the victim rather than the attacker.
“It doesn’t matter what an individual is wearing,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether she got drunk. That doesn’t give consent. What we are against is this culture of rape where we say that people can take whatever they want, and that just is not acceptable.”
McFall said the rape crisis center and the WRC started organizing the event two months ago, and that 500 people showed up to the event, about the amount she had estimated.
“We haven’t had any events targeting college-aged individuals,” she said. “This is something people at this age can really get into to make a statement that it is not the victim’s fault. We need to be upset. We need to be outraged. We need to say that this is not OK.”
McFall said that according to the Albuquerque Family Advocacy Center, 25 percent of all women who have been sexually assaulted in New Mexico refuse to report cases to authorities.
“Nobody wants to report because they think they’re not going to be taken seriously,” she said. “They need to know that they can, because all of this is a very serious thing. We just want it to stop.”
WRC Interim Director Summer Little said the WRC has hesitated to hold a “SlutWalk” in the past because of its controversial nature.
But she said that because slut shaming and rape culture have been more prominent on campus recently as evidenced by the recent cases of sexual assaults, the WRC was determined to fight back. Slut shaming is the act of shaming a woman for her sexual behavior.
“We thought long and hard about participating in an event called ‘SlutWalk.’ There are a lot of criticisms towards it,” she said. “But we’ve been called sluts when violence is committed against us, as if it’s our fault. We’re out here … to demand that people stop calling us sluts.”
Two sexual assaults have happened on campus recently. The first was Jan. 27, when two men allegedly groped a female student at Johnson Field under her clothes. The second assault happened Feb. 4, when a man allegedly groped a female student over her clothes near Castetter Hall. In addition, police are investigating recent sexual assault allegations against a member of UNM’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
Little said the WRC has data showing one in four women experience sexual assault at some point while at UNM. Incidents of sexual assault on campus this semester were widely covered in the local media, but sexual assault has always been a problem on campus, she said.
“Events like this help people come forward,” she said. “We hope it helps raise awareness that this stuff is going on and that we need to address it and to get together to craft more inventive ways to attack the problem of violence against women.”
In the event, participants, many of whom were wearing skimpy clothing, carried signs that and marched around UNM. A community fair at The Pit followed the march, where representatives from the WRC, the rape crisis center, and the offices of Sen. Martin Heinrich and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke about how the Albuquerque community can help fight rape culture.
Dan Douglas, president of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at UNM, said his fraternity attended the event refute the idea that men in fraternities are often sexual predators.
“There’s a lot more to Greek Life than what’s been on the news,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a tendency to associate that with some stereotypes. But that’s something that we’re here today to work against and talk about.”
Douglas said his fraternity aims to fight rape culture on campus by educating its members and other students at UNM. He said the fraternity has partnered for years with the WRC to provide training for UNM students.
“We really support the women in our community and we’re here to take a step forward with them,” he said. “It’s sad that women in this community feel threatened and in danger. That’s something that we’re working on to address.”
Lily Hawley, a member of Rocky Horror New Mexico, a performing arts group in Albuquerque, said her organization fully supports the cause of the “SlutWalk.” She said members of her organization wore tight corsets and fishnets to show that women should not be demonized for what they decide to wear.
“What is being yourself if not, partially, what you wear?” she said. “It is completely unfair of someone to say that what you wear is inciting some kind of provocation for sexual assault. You should be able to be what you are without punishment.”