In the United States, one in five women will be raped in their lifetime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. One out of 71 men will be raped.
Hundreds of activists, survivors and allies gathered Saturday morning at Thomas Paine Plaza in Center City for the March to End Rape Culture.
Participants took to the streets to raise awareness for the sexual violence and abuse many face on a day-to-day basis, snaking their way from City Hall to Rittenhouse Square by way of Chestnut Street and then circling back to Thomas Paine Plaza.
“If you were peer-pressured into having sex, you were raped,” said Milan Nicole Sherry, a guest speaker at the march and a program co-coordinator of the Trans Equity Project at Galaei, a queer Latinx social justice organization in Philadelphia.
As the groups of organizations and local activists proceeded through Rittenhouse Square, on-goers and restaurant patrons looked upon the marchers, some of who held signs reading “Believe Survivors” and “Don’t Let Rapists Go Free,” referring to recent sexual abuse allegations and cases against high-profile individuals like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Brett Kavanaugh.
The march took place two days after Christine Blasey Ford testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982, when the two were teenagers. Ford is one of three women who have publicly accused the high-profile judge of sexual assault.
Temple University senior journalism major Morgan Slutzky said the march taking place so soon after the hearing made the event more impactful.
“[It] brings up how, more important than ever, rape culture and the different systems of oppression that affect women and people all over the world need to be addressed,” she added.
The Kavanaugh controversy comes on the heels of the recent sexual assault conviction of another high-profile individual, Bill Cosby. On Wednesday, Cosby was sentenced to up to 10 years in state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting former university employee Andrea Constand in 2004.
Slutzky serves as public relations chair of Temple’s Feminist Alliance, a group that focuses on educating people on intersectional feminism and how to carry out the movement’s core beliefs, like working against the oppression of marginalized groups and fostering a community of people who want to change the current political system.
“People need to recognize this isn’t a problem for the few,” Slutzky said. “It’s a problem for everyone to deal with. Everyone needs to take action to protect others from abuse, assault and different forms of harassment.”
Slutzky believes that by increasing awareness, the march aimed to hold the perpetrators of sexual abuse and the legal system accountable and making sure survivors receive justice.
“We really need to be making sure that we are teaching young children that consent is mandatory in every aspect of life, not just within sexual relations,” Slutzky said.
“Everyone is important and are humans that have rights that need to be respected,” Slutzky added.
Junior psychology and criminal justice major Shira Freiman is the president of the university’s chapter of It’s On Us, a national campaign that tries to break down stereotypes of sexual assault, create an inclusive environment for survivors to tell their stories and shows where survivors can find help.
Freiman and junior strategic communications major Katherine Desrochers, the vice president of Temple’s It’s On Us chapter, said it’s important to consider intersectionality in these discussions to include everyone’s experiences and allow people from all backgrounds to have a voice.
“If people decide to report the abuse to police, the process is never made easier for the survivor,” Desrochers said. “For a lot of people who are able to report an assault, it can be considered a ‘second rape’ because it is such a traumatizing thing to go through.”
Guest speakers like Sherry and event organizer LaQuisha Anthony also called on citizens during their speeches to speak up when others are being harassed or uncomfortable due to toxic male behavior, that to Sherry has been long overlooked as “playful” or simplified as “boys being boys.”
Slutzky said she hopes to see more resources for survivors of sexual assault on campus and increased accountability for those who commit sexual crimes.
“A lot of the time, there aren’t systems in place that can correctly handle accusations or reports that are made,” Slutzky said. “One thing that universities and institutions can do is have dedicated places where those who have been harassed or assaulted can go and be the most important thing there.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Morgan Slutzky has previously written for The Temple News. She took no part in the reporting or editing of this story.