Finding Solidarity at Slut Walk DC

By Alyssa Seidorf
1

I was an emotional wreck all week. It’d been three months since I’d volunteered to speak at Slut Walk DC. In those three months, I’d sat down to write my speech probably a dozen times, but just couldn’t find it in me to finish it. As the day grew closer, my anxiety intensified; I’d be publicly sharing my survivor story for the first time ever.

Donna and I 1

I literally finished my speech on the train. Because of metro delays, my group ended up missing the march. We arrived at the pavilion as participants were lining up on stage to share their awesome handmade signs. My personal favorite: “Sluts are like unicorns: there’s no such thing.”

I checked in with the staff and made myself comfortable backstage with the other speakers. We made small talk and did whatever we needed to prepare ourselves to speak. One girl in particular caught my attention.

She was standing in a corner talking on her phone. She appeared to be pleading with a family member to join the rally. A little later I walked over and asked if she was okay. Her name was Donna. She told me she wanted her mom to see her speak, but she wasn’t able to make it.

We played with my friend’s Service Dog in Training, trying to calm our nerves. Shortly before Donna went on stage, she asked if I would stand next to her while she spoke. I hesitated; I knew I couldn’t give her all the support she needed; but some support was better than no support; so I agreed.

As we walked on stage, Donna squeezed my arm tightly. I could feel her anxiety. At the podium, she nervously scrolled through her talking points on her phone. As she tried to collect herself and tell her story, it became too much. Her emotions flooded over. She could no longer speak, and she stood on stage, sobbing.

I felt powerless. I put my hand on her back, not wanting to grab her too tight for fear of further triggering her, but it wasn’t enough. I choked back tears. I knew exactly what she was feeling; that uncontrollable, debilitating, state of emotional duress, which could only come from attempting to articulate the impact of trauma well beyond the descriptive limits of the tongue. I wondered if she would be able to finish.

group 2

And just like that, it happened. Something I’m not used to seeing. I’m used to struggling alone. I’m used to feeling depressed, or anxious, and not telling anyone. I’m used to shame. I’m used to people not getting it, wanting to help, but just not able to understand what I need (not that I always know what that is). It’s burdensome, and painful, frustrating and overwhelming, but it’s what I’ve come to expect; it’s become my new normal: solitude. Instead, in that moment, there was solidarity.

In a truly surreal moment, all the speakers emerged from backstage and joined us at the podium. They stood behind Donna and placed their hands on her back. They whispered words of encouragement to her, “You got this,” “You can do it,” “We’re here for you.” From the audience, I heard people shout, “You’re not alone,” “Stay strong!”

group back

With the love and support from sibling survivors and allies, Donna found the courage and the strength to finish her speech. All in all, that’s the whole point. The Slut Walk movement is about raising awareness, asserting our right to be in control of our bodies, and finding solidarity. And although this was not my first time at Slut Walk, this was the first, real moment that I felt I wasn’t alone. This was the first time, I really felt, that it was okay to lean on others and ask for help.

And so, to all my ignored and unacknowledged siblings out there, know this: we are behind you. We believe you, we love you, and you are not alone.

Photos courtesy of markwebster.zenfolio.com.

By Alyssa Seidorf

Alyssa Seidorf is a National Campus Organizer at the Feminist Majority Foundation. She works with college students across the county to support their feminist activism. Alyssa is a recent graduate of Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) where she majored in Business Management and minored in Women’s and Gender Studies. During her time at VT, she was president of the feminist activist organization, Womanspace, and interned with Planned Parenthood Health Systems as a Civic Engagement intern where she engaged the Blacksburg, Va. community about reproductive justice and supported the McAuliffe gubernatorial campaign. A short list of her favorite things is: coffee, traveling, sex-positivity, purple, and spicy food. aseidorf@feminist.org

1 comment

  1. Great post about finding solidarity at Slut Walk. I woukd like to attend the next one. Are there plans for one next year? I look forward to reading more from you.

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