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Fighting the "blaming the victim" rhetoric at the Second annual SlutWalk in Ottawa

by Crystel Hajjar

Fighting the "blaming the victim" rhetoric at the Second annual SlutWalk in Ottawa


About a couple of hundred members of the Ottawa community gathered outside the Human Rights monument in downtown Ottawa on August 18th, for the second annual SlutWalk rally.  

The rally in Ottawa is organized by volunteers who invited various Ottawa organizations such as Planned Parenthood Ottawa and Victim Services Ottawa to participate in the event.

“This is such a good opportunity to remind the Canadian public that we live in a culture that perpetuates victim blaming,” said Emily Griffiths, one of the many volunteer organizers of the event. “Women have the right to wear whatever they want wherever they want, as long as it is agreed upon and legal, and victimization should never be blamed on something as ridiculous as a piece of clothing”

The rallies, referred to as SlutWalk, began last year, as a response to a statement made by a Toronto police officer speaking on crime prevention at a York University safety forum. He said: “in order to avoid being victimized, women should stop dressing like sluts”.

This statement has drawn a lot of rage from feminist and activist groups who protested the “blaming the victim” mentality underlined in that this statement.

“The majority of people are coming to SlutWalk not to reclaim the word slut, it is to fight victim blaming,” said Julie Lalonde, the Project Manager at Draw the Line Campaign, targeted towards engaging bystanders about sexual violence in Ontario.  “The first step to addressing sexual assault is getting people talking about it and getting people to recognize that it happens even here in Ottawa which people see as very safe.”

The rally started at the Human Rights monument to represent women’s rights over their bodies, and continued past Parliament Hill to symbolically protest a private member’s bill that was recently introduced in the House of Commons to redefine human life and is seen by many as an indirect way to reopen the abortion debate. The rally ended in Minto Park, where there is a memorial to women who were murdered as a result of sexual violence. At the park, Victim Services Ottawa held a cell phone drive in order to collect phones donations to give to vulnerable women, such as women in abusive relationships, to use in emergency situations.


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