Thursday March 17, 2016
From the moment South Burlington High School sophomore Eva Rawlings saw the award-winning documentary UnSlut at Burlington City Arts, she knew she wanted to bring the film to her high school to share it with others. Rawlings will accomplish her goal on Thursday, March 31, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at SBHS when she hosts a screening and post-film discussion designed for students in grades 9 and up and adults.
The documentary asks the compelling question, “Why is the sexual shaming of girls and women, especially sexual assault victims, still so prevalent in the United States and Canada?” The answer comes through a series of six true stories that, according to www.unslutproject.com, intend “to inspire and motivate people everywhere to speak up about the dangerous, lasting effects of sexual bullying, slut-shaming, and all forms of gender-based discrimination.”
“The film addresses issues that we see and hear all the time, so it is relevant to our community,” explained Rawlings. “After I saw it, I started to talk about it with teachers and advocates. I also wore my ‘Define Slut’ t-shirt to school one day, and it got a lot of attention. People started asking questions. Once I explained what the goal of the documentary was, people were completely behind it.”
Rawlings credits educators Erin Randall-Mullins and Mariah Larkin and Principal Patrick Burke for their support as she put together the March 31 event. Additional allies have included SBHS’s Peer Advocates, who volunteer with Women Helping Battered Women, whose mission is to educate their school communities about relationship abuse. “The issues raised in the documentary are serious issues we all need to discuss,” noted peer advocate Vivian Huang, a senior at SBHS. “Like relationship abuse, slut-shaming is not a new phenomenon, and it can happen to a wide variety of people.”
Peer advocate Marissa Pelino, an SBHS sophomore, agreed and pointed out how important it is to develop a clear understanding of both issues to avoid “victim blaming” and judgment, which can have a lasting, debilitating impact on any individual.
When asked what inspired all three to begin these courageous conversations on difficult topics, Huang noted that the support of SBHS students and staff has made a significant positive difference, “They’re always interested in what we’re doing and want information, and that drives us to share more. It’s a good feeling to see people discussing things they had never discussed before.”
“Seeing how slut-shaming makes people feel inspired me to want to do something about it,” explained Rawlings, adding that the documentary addresses the most tragic impact: victims taking their lives by suicide.
UnSlut: The Documentary, she continued, “is really trying to remove the double standard and expose how rigid the expectation for female sexuality is because it’s so easy to be labeled one thing or another. That’s hard to hear and also hard to explain. The film will help start those conversations.”
“My goal for the event,” concluded Rawlings, “is if even one less girl one gets slut-shamed as a result of people seeing the film, that’s meaningful. That matters.”
For more information on UnSlut: The Documentary and to learn more about the UnSlut Project, please go to http://www.unslutproject.com/. For more information on the SBHS event, please contact Mariah Larkin, PACTeen Advisor, at 652-7017.