By Brianna Dinan
Photos by Joshua Albert
Yesterday afternoon, residents, workers and tourists alike stood witness to a barrage of at least 600 people, some in just bras and stocking, passionately marching through the street of Center City in the March to End Rape Culture.
Dianne Graeser, a 28-year-old mother-to-be, said she drove two and a half hours with her sister and daughter to participate in the march.
“We make this our yearly trip to Philadelphia and you know, it’s just really something I believe in,” she said, donning a sparkly, purple bra. “Some of the bystanders watching us hoothaw and catcall at us and it’s totally inappropriate.”
According to the march’s organizer, Christie Eastburn, the purpose of the March to End Rape Culture, formerly known as SlutWalk Philly, is to raise awareness about sexual assault and to educate the public about rape culture and how to combat it in everyday life.
“The statistics about rape culture reflect a painful reality that needs to change,” Eastburn said. “The purpose of this march is to raise awareness, support survivors, provide a healing, safe space, unite allies and educate one another on how we can end rape culture.”
Rape culture describes a society where rape and sexual violence are normalized through attitudes about gender and sexuality, and everyday actions that normalize rape including cat-calling, victim blaming, slut shaming, rape jokes, and educational programs that tell people how to prevent being raped, rather than telling perpetrators not to rape.
Studies suggest that someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every two minutes, yet only 3 percent of rapists are convicted and put in jail. Rape and sexual violence are especially prevalent in communities of LGBT, women of color, and college campuses.
This year, organizers decided to change the name from SlutWalk Philly to the March to End Rape Culture in order to include other groups and organizations, as many found the word “slut” triggering or didn’t identify with it, particularly gays and women of color.
“The name change has served not only to bring more individuals and community groups into the fold but it also broadens the conversations,” Easterburn said. “We want to talk about slut shaming, and blaming the victim, but we also want to talk about the many other aspects of rape culture including the fact that survivors of rape come from all genders.”
This year’s march was also the most collaborative and inclusive effort to date, with over fifteen organizations taking part, including Pussy Divison, Hollaback Philly, Take Back the Night, and the Trans Wellness Project.
Mike DiAngeles, a junior at Temple University, said he had never participated in anything like this before, but as a male, he was glad to take part in the movement.
“Men need to understand that no means no,” he said. “No doesn’t mean convince me and you know, just because she’s drunk doesn’t mean she wants to have sex with you. Drinks don’t equal consent and consent is very sexy.”
Jenny Ryder, a sophomore at Temple University who carried a sign that said “Destroy Bro Culture” made up of Greek letters, said she attended the march to shed light on the connection between fraternities and sexual assault, as well as the mishandling of these cases on college campuses, especially Temple University, which is being federally investigated for alleged Title IX violations.
“When you think of college guys you think of that frat culture that perpetuates rape culture,” she said. “I march against universities across the United States that endorse this Greek life that is so explicitly patriarchal… so as a young feminist, I think it’s really important make movements, especially on college campuses.”
Ryder said she was also there to show support for the LGBT community and the prevalence of sexual assault and violence in their communities, as 64 percent of trans people report being sexually assaulted.
“Trans women of color, they’re being murdered across the nation and it never gets any media coverage…it took two white men that happen to identify as gay for them to actually make any change,” she said, referring to the gay couple attacked in Rittenhouse Square on September 11th. “It just shows that they’re ready to leave us behind and leave the LGBT community behind.”
Keira Wright, a University of the Arts student that was screaming chants as loud as she could, said she believes the only way anything will change is if as many people as possible participate in this type of activism.
“Dude, I’m like so fucking hung over right now. I woke up at 11:20 and got my ass down here!” she said. “It’s so worth it to show your support of these people because rape culture impacts every single one of us, no matter what gender you identify with.”
After marching through Center City, participants gathered where they began in Love Park to find poets, speakers, and tables of local support groups.
Christie Eastburn says she hopes the march makes people realize that there is a united community in Philadelphia that is supporting survivors and standing up to sexual violence.
“Generally I want people to walk away with a better understanding about how rape culture operates and ways to challenge it in every day life,” she said. “I want people who attend to feel that there are supportive and healing spaces in Philadelphia that they can go to.”
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, there are many places in the city that provide support. For more information on the movement to end sexual violence in Philadelphia, visit the event’s website.