With public warnings, police walk a fine line between safety and victim-blaming
Police, wary of victim-blaming, are walking an ever-thinner tightrope when issuing public safety warnings to women.
On Saturday, Edmonton became the latest city to host a SlutWalk — gatherings of scantily dressed women protesting victim-blaming. The walks, in more than 60 cities across Europe, Australia and North America, were spurred by a January comment by Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti that women should “avoid dressing like sluts” in order not to be victimized. As one sign read at the April 3 SlutWalk in Toronto, “Don’t tell us how to dress, tell men not to rape.”
Police have taken notice. Departments across Canada have denounced Const. Sanguinetti’s comments, and at Saskatoon’s SlutWalk on May 28, Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill even made an appearance. “We want to show that the Saskatoon Police Service is a very progressive service and we take this seriously,” he said.
However, in the wake of the movement, police are finding that issuing even standard safety warnings to women is becoming fraught. What would have been considered routine public safety pronouncements are now being viewed through the highly politicized lens of the SlutWalk.
Photo: Bayonne Said and Jennifer Kay take part in the “Slutwalk” , on June 4, 2011 in Edmonton. (Greg Southam/Edmonton Journal)