PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — It’s a bold statement with a name some may find offensive, but activists call it necessary.
The public is looking to combat rape culture and victim-blaming with a unique demonstration.
Activists and allies took to the streets Wednesday for the city’s first “Slut Walk” event to show their support for victims of sexual assault, violence, and harassment.
“Slut Walk’ is founded on the principle that clothing does not equal consent,” Kshe Bernard, the event’s host, said “It is anti-victim blaming and anti slut-shaming.”
The Walk started at the Gateway building, to the city’s courthouse, and circling back around to the starting point. More than 50 people, men, women, and even children came out to boldly shed light on the rights of sexual assault survivors.
The outfits, the signs promoting consent, and the “my body, my choice chants,” were all direct messages proclaiming that no one deserves to be attacked.
“It’s supposed to be a little bit in your face and offensive because it’s offensive to be raped or sexually assaulted,” Bernard said.
The march also coincided with ‘International Sex Workers Day’ which aims to shed light on the exploitative working conditions in the industry.
“We’re saying girls can wear what they want to and shouldn’t be shamed, blamed, or raped,” Bernard said.
She also clarified that a “Slut Walk’ isn’t gender-biased and said it’s for anyone in the community as anyone can be victim-shamed or sexually assaulted.
Claire Lavey, a co-organizer, said Peoria has a large population of sex workers who are often easy targets.
“It [sex work] is so heavily penalized so everyone kind of looks at sex workers like ‘who cares right’ which is exactly why they are the most disposable, the most vulnerable to sex crimes like this or any crime, Lavey said. “They’re people like everybody.”
Other Organizers like Kristen Meierkord said they want to remove the negative stigma attached to sex workers and let survivors know they’re not alone.
“There are people that are here to help them and support them any way that we can,” Meierkord said.