By Jacob Porter
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
The student models strutted across the floor in tight black jeans and platform gold heels before a near capacity audience in the Chesapeake room of the Student Union, shamelessly donning white shirts that exposed their midriffs, with scribbled messages like, “I’m not a slut.”
The purpose of the fashion show last week – the first at Towson University – was not to exhibit new designs and colors but to send a message that sexual assault should not be tolerated on college campuses. The Sexual Assault Peer Educators hosted the Walk of SHAME event and were delighted by the results.
“The show is a creative and different way to have a discussion,” said Kailah Carden, the Sexual Assault Educator at Towson who assisted in developing the show.
The Urban Dictionary defines “a walk of shame” as the walk home following a sexual encounter the previous night. SHAME, meaning Sexual Harassment and Assault Must End, aims to raise awareness about these issues, officials said. The fashion show used the common phrase “walk of shame” as a creative play on words to develop the message behind the event.
April is Sexual Harassment Awareness month, and Carden said that the fashion show is a way to offer support and to prevent sexual assault. The fashion provides people with a visual representation into the horrors of slut shaming and sexual assault, she said.
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN, 11.2 percent of all college students experience rape. Additionally, among only undergraduates, 23.1 percent of females and 5.4 percent of males experience some degree of sexual assault.
Across the nation, the issues have exploded, beginning with the recent fall of the movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein. Since Weinstein’s dark history was revealed, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and Kevin Spacey also have been accused of sexual harassment.
Lelia Young, a Towson student and Sexual Assault Peer Educator, was the driving force behind the fashion show that displayed various articles of clothing symbolizing different aspects of sexual assault, rape culture, and awareness.
“It was difficult to coordinate everything,” said Young who also hosted the show, “getting the models together, and working with the other groups to put it all together.”
Young worked with TREND models. TREND is one of Towson’s modeling groups that focus on diversity. The Peer Educators also collaborated with the Body Image Peer Educators, and the campus service group Sisterhood.
“Not only did we want support bringing awareness to sexual assault on college campuses during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but we wanted to be at this specific event to promote body acceptance in the fashion industry,” said Amy Dupuis.
Color themes played a major part of the outfits modeled during the show. Red and white were featured heavily. White represented purity, and red represented all those who are victims of sexual assault according to Young. The outfits that the models wore symbolized that no matter what an individual wears, it is not an invitation for sex.
Excited that the audience nearly reached the room’s capacity of 80, Young vowed “we are going to have another one.” All who attended received a free T-shirt and were encouraged to sign a pledge to improve the campus environment as it relates to sexual assaults.
Carden said that the first step to changing this culture, is to raise awareness. That is exactly what the Walk of SHAME did, she said, explaining that the event was an opportunity for the audience to learn and to listen.