As Washington joined the list of cities around the world that have hosted a SlutWalk, hundreds of women swapped business suits for short skirts and revealing tops Saturday. The former is a march calling for an end to sexual violence and victim blaming.
A crowd made up mainly of women, which SlutWalk organizer Samantha Wright estimated at around 2,000-strong, marched from the White House to the Washington Monument brandishing signs with messages reading "This is what I was wearing when I was raped," and, "Rape pre-dates the miniskirt."
Twenty-three-month-old Virginia Warder sat in her stroller playing with a hot-pink feather boa and eating peaches. A sign on the stroller read "My body is mine" and the toddler's T-shirt was emblazoned with the words "My mommy is a slut."
"I would never want her to be blamed if she were sexually assaulted," Virginia's mother Theresia Warder, who was the victim of sexual violence as a teen, told AFP.
"People said it was my fault when I was sexually assaulted.
"This SlutWalk and all the others are about women saying to men that we can't prevent our own sexual assault by dressing one way or another; only the people who assault us can prevent it."
Wright organized Washington's SlutWalk to highlight how "blaming the victim only serves to silence them and perpetuates sexual violence" and because sexual violence is personal to her -- her husband, Shawn, was assaulted by a woman.
"Nobody asks to be sexually assaulted. Nobody. But victims of sexual violence are put in a really tough spot because we're told to report these things but when we do, we're told it's our fault," Wright said.
"That perpetuates the cycle of violence because the perpetrator feels their actions are justified. So they continue to commit violence and the victims continue to remain silent."
Sasha Ponappa highlighted a disturbing phenomenon as she led a contingent of deaf women at the colorful protest march, where women were clad in everything from shorts and tanktops to miniskirts and bodices.
A tiny handful of marchers challenged American puritanism by going topless, with only black stickers -- called "pasties" in the United States -- covering their nipples.
"About 80-85 percent of deaf women and women with disabilities experience sexual assault in their lives, and 80 percent of the cases go unreported," Ponappa, who is executive director of the Deaf Abused Women's Network, told AFP.
"Apparently I was dressed like a slut and deserved to be raped" read one of the signs held high by the marchers as they passed in front of the US Treasury building.
Deanna Rice was wearing shorts for the first time in four years, and holding a sign that read: "This is what I was wearing when I was raped. Think I asked for it? The cops sure did."
She was sexually assaulted by a neighbor, and both her mother and the police said she was "asking for it because I was wearing shorts and showing too much cleavage," she told AFP.
The SlutWalk phenomenon began in Toronto in April when hundreds of women and men took to the Canadian city's streets for a march to protest a comment made by a police constable that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."
Since then, SlutWalks have been held in dozens of cities around the world, including Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, New Delhi, Philadelphia, Seoul and Sydney.
Costa Rica is due to hold a SlutWalk Sunday outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Jose to protest a call by senior Catholic clerics for women to to dress "modestly" in order to avoid being "dehumanized" and "objectified.