Over 2000 people, mainly women, sallied down Piccadilly for the second London Slutwalk on 22 September. Home-made placards ruled from ‘Sluts & Plebs Unite’ to ‘Compensate Rape Survivors, not Banks’. Many reflected fury at police, prosecutors and courts which ensure that ‘97% of all rapists won’t spend a day behind bars’.
At the rally in Trafalgar Square, mc’d by performer Red Jen, Slutwalk founder Anastasia Richardson, set the tone with a fiery welcoming speech:
‘We are divided by the myth that some of us are worthy of protection, and some are not. That some of us are sluts, and some of us are “respectable”. We are all worthy of protection but none of us is getting it. Unless we all stand together and say we’re not going to let this happen to any of us, women and men will continue to be raped, and the justice system will continue to fail us.’
An enthusiastic crowd welcomed every speaker: a mother “driven by grief” who became a campaigner with Women Against Rape after her 15-year-old daughter was denied justice by the police who lost evidence; an asylum seeker fleeing gang rape who organised a mass hunger strike against sexist guards in Yarl’s Wood detention centre; a child abuse survivor and former prisoner who spoke of the fight to bring serial abusers of children to justice when people in authority turn a blind eye; a woman with a disability who blamed the government for increased violence since they labelled as scroungers people with disabilities who claim life-preserving benefits; a woman of colour who rejoiced at SlutWalk, ‘embracing the word “slut”, to remove the stigma; if we’re all identified as sluts, that’s the end of the insult which can divide us’; a transgender woman; sex workers fighting prosecution for prostitution when they report rape and other violence. The English Collective of Prostitutes credited SlutWalk for distinguishing itself from other feminist initiatives by including sex workers.
Throughout the rally people were transfixed, moving from cheers, to gasps of horror, to shouts of “shame” as the struggles for justice, successful and not, unfolded. Two poets brought laughter and light relief.
By the end the sentiment expressed by Anastasia at the beginning was well established:
”This is a movement. We can change things a little bit, for a short time, for a certain group of people. Or we can demand justice for everyone. We can keep fighting till each one of us is protected. We can change things forever.”
Many flocked to sign the petition demanding protection for all rape survivors. http://www.change.org/petitions/uk-home-office-protect-all-rape-survivors-prosecute-rapists