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'SlutWalk' outssex-assault stigma

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 11:04 PM
TAMPA -

Last year, more than 800 cases of rape were reported to Tampa Bay area law enforcement. On Saturday, protesters took to the streets to say, "Enough is enough."

SlutWalk Tampa filled downtown's Joe Chillura Courthouse Square with hundreds of people — young and old, gay and straight, men and women — to denounce sexual assault. They focused much of their energy on those who claim victims invite assaults by dressing provocatively.

"Even in school we're taught to dress a certain way to keep ourselves out of trouble," said Janelle Rojas, a student at the University of South Florida. "Nobody teaches that it's wrong to rape."

SlutWalk protests were formed across the United States and Canada this summer.

Jackie Horwich, part of the group that organized Saturday's protest in Tampa, agreed the name can be a little off-putting.

"It's an ironic name," she said.

Protestors aim to neuter the word "slut" by taking it for their own, much as other groups have adopted once-derogatory terms directed at them.

"We need to realize some of the things we're saying are hurtful," said Greg Stevens, a recent USF graduate who helped run the protest. Stevens told the crowd he joined the movement because his sister killed herself after being raped and hiding the fact out of shame. She knew people would label her a slut, Stevens said.

Society must move beyond viewing women as sex objects, said Stevens, a youth pastor.

Jarrett Bowie, a 19-year-old student at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, wore a white tank top with "real men don't rape" hand-written on the back.

Pasco County resident Teagan Alexander, one of three speakers, said she was assaulted by a stranger after a party at Florida State University. She said she reported the assault, but no one has been arrested.

"I was not ready to lose my virginity to someone I didn't remember," Alexander said. "I was not ready for my life to change so much overnight."


kwiatrowski@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7871 Twitter: @TBOKevinW
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