Philadelphia Marches to End Rape Culture

Photos and text by: Danielle Corcione

On Saturday, September 30th, local activists and advocates gathered for the March to End Rape Culture at Thomas Paine Plaza, across the street from City Hall, in Philadelphia.

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Demonstrators sit and listen to speeches around the afro-pick “All Power to All People” sculpture.

As I approach the demonstration that afternoon, I was handed two small flyers by a volunteer. One included different chants–such “No means no!,” “Blame the system, not the victim!,” and “My body, my choice!”–and the other included some information about rape culture, including some statistics which I fact-checked below.

  • Every 107 seconds, a person in the United States is sexually assaulted. RAINN reports the number of seconds have dropped to 99.
  • 44 percent of victims are under 18 [years of age]. Campus Safety Magazine supports this data, citing the United States Department of Justice.
  • 80 percent of victims under 30 [years of age]. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network supports this data.
  • 2.78 million men in the United States have been raped. RAINN also supports this data.
  • Two-thirds of perpetrators are known to the victim. the United States Bureau of Statistics explains the rates are higher. 78 percent, or about 12 percent more, incidents of sexual violence “involved an offender who was a family member, intimate partner, friend, or acquaintance.”
  • 64 percent of transgender people experience sexual assault. The National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force supports this data.
  • 98 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail. RAINN also supports this data.

There were tables for several organizations, including Philly Queer Brunch and Philadelphia Printworks, set up around the plaza. Additionally, the organizers set up a “Therapy Tent” for those who need emotional support.

The event kicked off with a handful of speakers, including many who spoke about their relationship with rape culture. The list of speakers included March to End Rape Culture organizers Quisha Anthony and Rosie Clark, PAVE Philly chair Preeti Pathak, Wear Your Voice Magazine managing editor Lara Witt, Project SAFE members Aisha and Merisa, Black and Brown Workers’ Collective organizer Nowalzi Monique, Rowan University student Destinie Cubler, and Take Back the Night organizer Cookie.

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Lara Witt gives a speech beside an American sign language interpreter.

A religious counter protester, wearing a “REPENT YOU HO” baseball cap, stood on the sidewalk and shouted many phrases, including “if you all kept your legs closed, I wouldn’t have to be here.” No more than four counter protesters, including one who held a sign which read “FEMINISTS ARE WHORES” on the front side and “WOMEN BELONG IN THE KITCHEN” on the back, stood around him. During the speeches, tension rose between both parties, causing a group of Philadelphia Police Officers to abruptly scurry and stand around the religious counter protesters, blocking them off from the anti-rape culture demonstrators.

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Police officer stands in front of “OBEY JESUS” and “FEMINISTS ARE WHORES” signs.
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Demonstrator, blowing a purple rape whistle, holds a Refuse Fascism sign in front of a counter protester with a megaphone and a “REPENT YOU HO” hat.
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Police officer stands in front of “WOMEN BELONG IN THE KITCHEN” and “MUHAMMAD” signs.

That display reminded me of a particular incident which occurred just over a year ago. According to Philly.com, a former Temple University police officer Aaron Wright murdered his girlfriend, Joyce Quaweay using his fists and a police baton, in their Germantown home in July 2016.

Following the speeches, the march began down 15th Street, heading south.

Author’s note: All tweets in this post were used with permission.

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