Donning pasties, attendees adorned with colorful tattoos, fishnets, combat boots and wrapped in yellow caution tape marched toward the west steps of the Capitol holding signs while chanting, “autonomy for all bodies.”
Survivors of sexual violence and their allies first gathered at the amphitheater in Civic Center Park to kick off the 7th Annual SlutWalk event on Aug. 27.
SlutWalk Denver is one of many cities participating across the nation that brings community together to rally, march and speak out against rape culture.
Sky Yarborough, a two-spirit indigenous artist, opened the equally somber and joyous event by inviting the group of 40 attendees to gather in a circle for a blessing.
“You survived and that is the greatest form of resistance,” Yarborough said. “I’m proud of you for surviving.”
Naomi Parnes, event co-organizer, sees SlutWalk as an empowering space for survivors that encourages body autonomy without judgement.
“Wear something slutty and assert your right that your body is not property and that your nudity is not pornography,” Parnes said.
SlutWalk began in 2011 in response to a Toronto police constable advising women to “stop dressing like sluts” to avoid being sexually victimized. Since then, SlutWalk Toronto has sparked rallies internationally to promote awareness of sexual violence.
SlutWalk Denver attendees and survivors shared their stories of survival behind a colorful handwritten sign that read, “There is no excuse for sexual abuse. No means no.”
In Denver alone, 363 rapes have been reported according to a 2017 rape crime report compiled by The Denver Post. That is an average of 1.5 rapes per day.
Ana Valdés said she was grateful to find SlutWalk after moving to Denver just a month ago. Valdés shared the harrowing details of her survival story as a university student for the first time in public.
“This is a very important community that works in a collective with such positivity. We need more spaces like these,” Valdés said.
Becky Taha’blu, event co-organizer, talked about the hard exterior she built from living in a male-dominated society.
“I’m not going to smile, because I’m gonna do what I want with my face, damn it!” Taha’blu said.
Walter Paszkiewicz also gathered the courage to speak. The supportive crowd responded by chanting, “his body, his choice.”
Parnes acknowledged that MSU Denver is a commuter university with less sexual violence incidents occurring on campus, but encouraged students to talk about it as a prevention strategy.
MSU Denver has a sexual misconduct policy which prohibits all forms of sexual assault and abuse including stalking and intimate partner violence.
In 2015, the Auraria Police Department reported eight domestic violence offenses and seven sex offenses. The offenders of these cases were not students or affiliated to the campus. The MSU Denver student handbook defines sexual assault as any nonconsensual physical contact of a sexual nature.
“Certainly the fact that they weren’t fighting or scratching or screaming at the top of their lungs, in no way, means that they were consenting,” said Michael J. Phibbs, Auraria Campus Police Department chief.
There were also 14 cases of stalking reported on campus, double the amount from the previous year. Shanna Mae Petersen, program assistant at the Phoenix Center at Auraria, said stalking has become more prevalent because of social media. Most stalking cases involve ex-partners.
“I think it is really hard for people to know that they are being cyber-stalked but because we live these very public lives online, it’s really, really easy for perpetrators to know whereabouts,” Peterson said in a previous story.
SlutWalk organizers encourage students to be involved, report any sexual violence and break the stigma of survivors.
“This affects dudes too,” Paszkiewicz said. “I’m just glad to have an authentic, safe and open space for expressing my joys and triumphs.”
The Phoenix Center at Auraria offers a free and confidential 24-hour helpline for survivors of violence at 303-556-2255.
Students can request Auraria Police to escort them to their cars late at night by calling 303-556-5740.
In case of emergencies on campus, please call 303-556-5000 when using a mobile phone. Calling 9-1-1 will direct your call to the Denver Police Department, which could delay response time.
Additional information below
Text-A-Tip – 720-593-TIPS (8477)
- Save 720-593-TIPS (8477) in your phone and use it to discreetly report suspicious activities on campus.
- Photos may be included with text messages.
- Text-a-Tip is also a way for those with hearing or speech loss to reach the ACPD by phone.
Mobile Phone – 303-556-5000
- Call 303-556-5000 for both emergencies and non-emergencies.
- Program this number in your cell phone in the event you need assistance while on campus.
(Note: 911 calls from your cell phone are routed to an outside police department, delaying the ACPD’s response time)
Campus Phone – 911
- Call 911 from a campus phone, which includes landline phones located in offices, classrooms, and lounges.