In August, a wonderful woman named Samantha Wright who worked for me at NARAL and volunteered tirelessly on my campaign asked me to speak at an event she was organizing in DC. It was sure to draw a huge crowd (and it did!) and get a lot of media attention.
Samantha was organizing SlutWalk DC in order to take a stand sexual assault and against victim blaming. I had to stand with her. Some of my political advisors suggested keeping a low profile about this event, because it has been controversial within the feminist community. While I understood their concerns, I just had to go with my gut.
I am so glad I did.
My experience speaking at SlutWalk was both liberating and empowering. I was inspired by the other speakers, and the attendees of all ages who have had enough with a culture that blames victims of sexual violence. Since I spoke at the event, I have been tremendously humbled by the people who have reached out to me, and thanked me for speaking up.
This is what I said:
I am Ariana Kelly, and I am a state legislator from Maryland. Last year, after more than a decade working in TV news, politics, and on women’s issues at nonprofit organizations, I was elected by the people of my hometown of Bethesda to represent them in Annapolis.
I am 34, which makes me a little older than many of you.
But not too old to get what SlutWalk is about. In fact, no one is too “old” to get what SlutWalk is about. We are challenging people to throw away their judgments about victims of sexual violence.
And, we are challenging ourselves to do the same thing. Because we want a BETTER WORLD, where a sexual assault, a RAPE, is NEVER blamed on the victim. Not even a little. Not even kinda. Never.
Which brings us to the name. SLUT WALK. I admit it, I’m uncomfortable with the name. After all, it conflicts with our LONG national tradition of judging women who admit or (god forbid) embrace their sexuality. Back in my day, we would say “easy”. But I get it. EasyWalk does not have the same ring. My grandmother might have said “Hot in the Pants,” as in, “Your problem, Ariana, is that you’re Hot in the Pants.” Of course, I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s hereditary, since she herself had seven children. Talk about hot in the pants. I only have two.
And I should add that my two children were fathered by my husband, to whom I have been married for more than a decade. So I really am officially not a slut (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Now, when my husband and I met, his extremely jealous female friend did take to calling me, get this, the WetHole. Have you ever heard anything more vulgar? I of course, took great offense, and then the next logical step, I ironically named my new business “Wet Hole Productions”…..So I get reclaiming words. And I agree, Wet Hole Walk wouldn’t have worked. Sounds messy.
So here we have it, SlutWalk. Let’s get down to business.
I am here today because I was called a SLUT after I was raped, and it really ticked me off.
This was years ago in Montgomery County.
I was in a parking garage, but not in a car. Right there, out in the open. Just a little hidden behind a concrete pillar. There were at least a dozen parked police cars all within view. I was staring at them. I kept hoping one of those cars would come to life and rescue me. But they didn’t.
After, I didn’t know what to do. But I did know two things. I wanted to press charges, and I didn’t want to be pregnant. I was a very responsible girl. I had read about this technique called “post-coital contraception”…today we call it Emergency Contraception, or EC. But this was before EC was FDA approved, and you certainly couldn’t get it over the counter. Only a hospital would dispense it.
So I used a payphone to call the Rape Crisis Line, and they told me what hospital to go to. I was very calm, I guess it was shock. With the help of a friendly nurse, the ER doc got me into a robe and into stirrups. He took my medical history, gave me my first ever pelvic exam, some sort of shot, and told me the police and a social worker were on their way. Then, I lost it. I cried. And gagged. And heaved.
The doctor looked at me sternly. By now, the nurse had left the room. He said, “Now Miss, I don’t see what you’re so upset about. After all, you’ve been promiscuous before.”
After that, my memory goes blank. I cannot for the life of me remember what I said to him. Did I even say anything? If I had to guess I’d say I rolled over, curled up into a ball, and died.
The next thing I remember is leaving the hospital with an angelic social worker by my side. She understood. And she helped me. And I healed.
But those words still ring in my ears.
And when I think back on that time in my life, I don’t really think about the rapist. For me, that part makes sense. It was a violent crime, and he was a criminal. A disgusting, vile thug.
But the doctor? He was supposed to help me. And I needed him to help me. Instead, he hurt me all over again. His words did not reopen a wound. They created a whole new wound. The rapist was one man, violating me. But the doctor was my worst fear, embodied. It was as though at that moment he represented the whole world, and what they would think of me after the attack. And I had my answer. SLUT.
This is what SlutWalk is fighting against. The shaming may come from a doctor. Or the police. The media. Your friends. Family. Or total strangers. But no rape survivor will make it through their recovery without someone judging them. It might not be for alleged promiscuity, it might be for stupidity, frigidity, or just plain WOMAN-ity. Maybe it’s because of your homosexuality, or your gender identity.
BUT IT IS ALL Wrong. ALWAYS. EVERY TIME.
And the truth is, people do it because they want to know that victims are somehow different. People want to be sure this kind of thing can’t happen to them, or worse, their child.
But it can. Unfortunately, sexual violence still happens all the time. To good people.
But we, the good people, are doing something amazing today. We are demanding a stop to this second victimization. We have the power to do this.
Today, I am no longer a terrified, naked, teenage girl in stirrups. I am a state legislator, representing the voices of more than 100,000 people in my hometown. AND I serve on the Health and Government Operations Committee. Yes, we oversee all the hospitals in the state. So no, no one there will likely be calling ME a SLUT anymore. And I promise to work my butt off to pass laws and enact policies make sure they are not calling you SLUTs either.
Thank you all for inspiring me with this movement. It feels wonderful to be in the midst of so many people who really get it. Now, LETS CHANGE THE WORLD.