When Ellie was 13-years-old she was anally and vaginally raped by a man she had met three hours earlier.
She did not get justice. Four years on, she's trying to get empowered.
Ellie is standing in central London with her 51-year-old mother and approximately 1,000 others at the capital’s second Slutwalk, a protest supporting “the radical notion that nobody deserves to be raped”.
It began after a policeman told students in Toronto women should avoid dressing provocatively if they didn't want to get sexually assaulted, comments which led to a wave of underwear-clad protesters taking to the streets for 'Slutwalks' across the globe.
The movement is not without its controversies. First, there's the name – which one activist says provokes the same reaction as when feminists decided to start reclaiming “cunt”. Oh, and that London's march is organised in association with Women Against Rape, who provoked outrage when they said they did not think Julian Assange should be extradited to face allegations of sex crimes in a recent comment piece. Then there's the underwear.
Slutwalk is about “the radical notion that nobody deserves to be raped"
Slutwalk has already created headlines around the world – and in its second year, it's about momentum. When Saturday's march reached Trafalgar Square, from Hyde Park Corner, a policeman estimated the crowd was around 1,000–1,500, less than attended the June 2011 protest.
The event's organiser and the woman who started Slutwalk London (“with a lot of help from Women Against Rape”), Anastasia Richardson, was happy to take on the critics of the event when speaking to the Huffington Post UK on Friday.
"People don't want to march under the banner of slut,” she said. “But the thing is unless everyone joins together and decides there's no excuse for rape; we're allowing ourselves to be divided. These woman who want to pretend that they're somehow more respectable than the rest of us end up being used against us."
"We want to give people the opportunity to speak about their experiences of rape and be supported. And to get some confirmation that what happened to them was wrong. That confirmation is not being given to people by the justice system at the moment.”
Julian Assange's case was mentioned during the march
For some, it really works. Rape survivor Sarah, 28, says it's “one of the most empowering demonstrations that I have ever been to.”
There's just one issue – what happens afterwards? “It is scratching the surface of what needs to be done. There is still a huge problem in the justice system with the rights of victim,” she says.
Nina, 20, whose studded shoes are causing a stir (“I made a little girl cry on the train. She saw my shoes - they're covered in spikes - she was like 'mummy are they real spikes?'”), says it's about taking a stand – even if it's for one day only.
Sheeva, 20, one of Slutwalk's stewards says the march is supposed to be provocative
“The amount of victim blaming that goes on is so ingrained in society and language. If you go for a night out people will say 'when you're going home cover yourself up, don't dress like a slut. It's your responsibility not to get raped and not the rapists' responsibility not to rape you.”
Jess, 25, who is marching with her friend Stacey, says it's provocative for a reason. “Deal with the provocation and think about it.”
Stacey, 25 says it's about raising awareness. “It [Slutwalk] needs to be something people are going to listen to, or at least read about and it's going to stand out in the headlines.”
But the provocation can backfire on some. Samantha, a beautiful 19-year-old blonde girl from Essex, who has arrived at the protest in a pink string vest and hot pants, is sick of photographers taking pictures without her consent. “I just turned around and one of them took a picture of my arse!” she says.
Nina, whose studded shoes made a little girl cry
Megan, also 19, also beautiful, is happy to be photographed in a bra and jacket but says some of the attention is “intrusive”.
“It's ironic,” she says. “They're [photographers] not asking for consent.”
But despite all the controversy, Slutwalk's aims and objective are admirable – and the spectators seem to think so too.
Adam, 25, from Eastbourne wasn't meant to be at Slutwalk. He and his mates were visiting the National Portrait Gallery when they stumbled into the rally. But he's glad he stayed. “I feel a bit ashamed standing here with a beer,” he says. “Just listening to what these women have been through”.
Ella, 20, from Kent who stumbled across Slutwalk with her sister and two children agrees. “What they're doing is important. I've been a victim myself. It's good to see something like this.”
As Anastasia pointed out on Friday, there is an issue to address. Currently in Britain it is thought 90% of rapes go unreported, while the conviction rate is around 6%. These statistics leave a lot of damaged women and men still looking for justice.
“What's different about this year's Slutwalk is that we really want to focus on the police and the crown prosecution service and the courts.
“The issue here isn't so much people's attitudes towards rape it is how the authorities treat them. If rapists aren't convicted that sends a double message to the public.”
Ellie and her mother aren't concerned about the controversy, for them it's just really good to see the number of people out to support survivors of rape, after being let down so badly.
*Some names have been changed to protect survivors of rape
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