SUNY New Paltz students marched through campus holding handmade signs with slogans such as “My body, my choice,” “Consent makes me wet” and “My dress does not mean yes” on Sunday, Dec. 4 during the first Walk of No Shame.
The walk originated from a group assignment urging activism against domestic abuse, rape and child abuse.
“The event was started out of a class we were all taking called violence against women with Peri Rainbow,” organizer and Voice for Choice co-founder Gabrielle Lamake said. “Some of the women had the idea to do a slut walk and some wanted to perform a skit/event, so we decided to combine the two and make it a big multicultural event addressing issues on rape and sexual harassment that is prevalent in our society.”
The walk aimed to teach participants about rape, as well as empower survivors and all women to challenge the victim blaming mentality they feel is perpetuated in media and society as a whole.
“I think really a big part of it was the idea that people aren’t asking to get raped,” organizer and Feminist Collective member Erin Healy said. “It doesn’t matter what you wear, it doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter if you’re walking alone at night. Our culture needs to stop teaching don’t get raped and start teaching don’t rape people.”
The walk began with sign making in Student Union (SU) 405 and continued with a walk on campus, which passed every dorm and went on to the academic concourse. Organizer Lauren Luball said that many on the concourse were curious about the cause and cheered for the group of about 50 or 60 people as they went by.
The march lasted half an hour and concluded in SU 62/63 with free pizza, safe sex materials, performances by various campus organizations and presentations of rape facts and information. Acts included Warriors dance troupe, burlesque, Urban Lyrics and Absolut A Cappella.
“The way we did it was between performances, so every time a performance came and spoke or did a dance we decided to say three statistics right after them, and some of the statistics would go along with the thing that was presented,” organizer Alexandra Ramirez said. “We didn’t want to overwhelm people with just facts.”
One example of the entertainment relating to shared statistics was a member of Urban Lyrics who wrote a poem about being raped by someone in her household. She did not know it was rape or what it means, Ramirez said. The nine organizers then provided relevant statistics like the frequency of household rape and how it is often not a stranger.
Ramirez said she believed all the information given was very helpful and better educated attendees.
“A lot of people didn’t know the statistics of rape and I know some of my friends that went to the program were surprised that there were LGBTQ statistics there and that there were LGBTQ people actually getting raped,” Ramirez said.
The walk held a strong focus on LGBTQ issues, as they all agreed to send the $50 they received in donations to Green Chimneys, a place where LGBTQ youth can stay and turn to. Attendees also wrote many supportive letters to those at Green Chimneys to help with what they are going through, Luball said.
“We actually decided as a group that we wanted to donate to somewhere that catered toward LGBTQ needs because that’s not brought up enough,” Healy said. “It’s these kids who have nowhere to go, they were thrown out of their homes, so getting these letters of just encouragement and nice things should be really awesome for them.”
Healy said the response for the march was very positive and she had many ask her to continue holding the walk, which she would like to do. Healy said she would rather the next walk take place in warmer weather, as one of the prominent parts of the Slut Walk is people walking half naked “to show I can walk around like this and I still have a right to say no.” She would also like to potentially lengthen the route as well and have it go through town rather than confined to campus.
However, Healy was pleased with the number of marchers who joined and hoped it worked towards taking back the oppressive words generally pertaining to women.
“Just reclaiming the word slut, you shouldn’t be ashamed if you have a sexuality and you’re a sexual person,” Healy said. “As long as you’re safe and as long as you’re happy and as long as it’s consensual, nobody should make you feel bad about that.”
Walk of No Shame on PhotoPeach