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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Over the weekend, Seattle became the latest city to join the growing "slutwalk" phenomenon. It began in Canada, when a policeman suggested women avoid dressing like sluts, those his words, to reduce the risk of being sexually assaulted. Those remarks triggered protests at home and galvanized a movement around the world.

For the view from Seattle, here's Vanessa Romo of member station KPLU.

VANESSA ROMO: Hundreds of women in skimpy outfits - we're talking plunging necklines and the shortest of shorts - disregarded the overcast, 60-degree weather and marched down the streets of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Unidentified Woman #1: The outfit is a tiny, tiny bikini, string bikini.

Unidentified Woman #2: A red dress that has an over black lace thing.

Unidentified Woman #3: Hot pink leopard-print halter top, garters and...

Unidentified Man #1: Vinyl platform boots, a very small green micro mini, a leather belt with pockets, and a vinyl bikini top with a veil of glittery camouflage print.

ROMO: This spring and summer, scantily clad women, and some men, are taking to the streets in what are called Slut Walks. They say they're protesting a culture in which the victim of a sexual assault is blamed rather than the perpetrator.

Protester Monica Thomas explained why she came out for the walk.

Ms. MONICA THOMAS: I don't believe that how a woman dresses dictates whether or not they want to be raped. No one wants to be raped. And no one deserves to be treated that way.

(Soundbite of protest)

Unidentified People: (Chanting) When people are raped, what do we do? Stand up, fight back.

ROMO: Slut Walks began in April when a Toronto police officer suggested women should, quote, "avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized."

He was talking to a small group of law students, but that comment incited an international movement/happening.

From afar, the protest could be mistaken for a Mardi Gras celebration. But behind the garter belts and bustiers are stories like Jessi Murray's

Ms. JESSI MURRAY: I was a nerd, never been kissed.

ROMO: Murray is one of the organizers of the Seattle Slut Walk. She says on her 18th birthday she visited MIT as an accepted student.

Ms. MURRAY: At that point, I had, you know, recently lost a lot of weight, was actually looking pretty cute, but I hadn't really been used to the idea of guys being into me. And it happened that I was assaulted that night. And I ended up blaming myself, and I thought I must be a slut.

ROMO: Murray says this march is for women like her, who were shamed into feeling responsible for their own abuse. And she says it's about reclaiming the word slut.

Ms. MURRAY: Along the lines of how a guy might refer to himself as a stud. A woman never says she's a stud. But maybe, you know, I'm a slut. And again, it's not - for some people it's a really uncomfortable term, but I think it's one we need to take the negative power away from.

Ms. CATHERINE SHARPE: I still have mixed feelings about the way some people are dressing up. And it seems like an excuse to just dress slutty.

ROMO: Catherine Sharpe is one many women at the rally who are uncomfortable with the I'm-a-slut protest signs and general chest-beating on display. She's dressed in a hoodie, jeans and sneakers. There's a topless 22-year-old in pasties nearby.

Ms. SHARPE: But then again, I am kind of mad at myself for thinking that because I really feel like women should be able to wear whatever they want to, whenever they want to. And it's never an excuse for sexual assault or harassment.

ROMO: In all, there are 81 SlutWalk chapters around the globe. The next Slut Walk is scheduled for June 25th in Detroit.

For NPR News, I'm Vanessa Romo in Seattle.

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