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'Nobody Owns You'

Rachel Jensen on educating and empowering survivors of intimate partner sexual violence through The Walk of No Shame.

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COURTESY SLUTWALK SLC
  • Courtesy SlutWalk SLC

The state statistics are sobering: According the Utah Department of Public Health, one in eight women and one in 50 men will experience rape in their lifetimes, and one in three Utah women will experience some sort of sexual violence. These rates are significantly higher than national ones—which seems to be a symptom of Utah's attitude toward sex and relationships, says Rachel Jensen, director of SlutWalk SLC. As part of a worldwide movement against rape culture, "The Walk of No Shame" happens downtown on Saturday, Sept. 30, at noon.

What's new about this year's event?
This year, we're aiming to educate the public on intimate partner sexual violence, which would be girlfriends, boyfriends, partners, spouses. It's a problem that's not really talked about in Utah as much as it should be, so we want to get the message out there that this is something that can happen between intimate partners. We have some amazing speakers coming for that aspect. And we're also working to empower survivors to work through the healing process by using art and expression. ... So we've got a bunch of survivors coming out to tell their story about how they've used different forms of expression to help them to go through that journey, too.

Can you explain what intimate partner sexual violence is?
It's under that sexual-assault umbrella but crosses lines into domestic violence as well. In Utah, we tend to get married a lot younger and have a lot less experience with sexual partners when we get married, so the thinking is: If I'm married to this person, I owe them certain aspects of my body. ... It's something that's very coercive, very subtle, something that kind of hides under the surface where people may not think that it's a form of abuse. ... We want to break that myth. We want to get out there and say, 'No, this is your body; nobody owns your body'—our slogan this year is 'Nobody owns me.' You still have the ability to consent or not consent to these things even in a tight relationship, even in a marriage. It's still up to you.

Why did you choose to focus on this?
Last year we had a lot of people out at the event who were talking to us and among themselves about how 'this is something that my ex-boyfriend did to me,' 'this is something that my husband did to me.' So we thought, maybe this is something that we need to talk about as a society, really get it out there on the forefront that this isn't normal and, if you're in this situation, there's help and resources for you, too.

What do you and your team of volunteers hope to achieve with these annual walks?
We're trying to educate and empower. We want to educate people as to what these different forms of sexual violence and sexual health are, but we want to empower people as well, especially this year. We want the allies and survivors who come out to know that there are processes to help with healing, and that they're not alone.

What has been the biggest win this year?
Last year, [Utah State Rep.] Angela Romero—and we're gonna have her speak again—talked about a bill she was introducing to add additional funding to test the backlog of rape kits, and that bill passed. So now we have more funding to pay for the processing of those. A lot more survivors are getting justice, a lot more perpetrators are being put behind bars, and this has only been within this last year. This has been a huge win, not only for the fight that we're fighting, but for our state, and just to know they're taking steps to show that they're working for survivors.


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