Why I March On SlutWalk – Ben McKenzie

In the Australian component of the International Violence Against Women Survey survey, more than half of the nearly 7,000 women surveyed had experienced physical or sexual assault, but less than 16% had reported it. One of the major, consistent reasons cited for not reporting was shame or embarrassment.

You may not think you know anyone who’s experienced sexual assault, but odds are, you do. If she – and it will almost certainly be a woman – told you, what would you think? Would you wonder what she was wearing? Whether she flirted with or kissed the perpetrator? Whether she was drunk? Whether she’s a slut? If you ask any of these questions, what you’re really asking is: was it her fault?

It wasn’t. It never is. No-one should ever think it was. That’s why I march on SlutWalk.

Think about the flip-side for a moment: to argue that it is a woman’s fault she is sexually assaulted because of what she wears or does is to argue that the man – and it will almost certainly be a man – couldn’t help himself. That he has no free will. That all men – boyfriends, husbands, friends – are a rebuffed advance away from committing rape.

We’re not. Men who rape make the choice to do so, and they do it in part because they’ve internalised the message that it’s not their fault; because they know that shame and embarrassment will help them get away with it.

Rapists are to blame for rape. Society needs to tell them so. That’s why I march on SlutWalk.

Ben McKenzie is a SlutWalk organiser, and will be speaking at SlutWalk Melbourne 2012 this Saturday 1st September.

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