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Yesterday was the first annual Denver Slut Walk. Yeah, you read that right, and it shocked you a little bit, no? Which is exactly the point of this event; you see it is designed to raise awareness of sexual assault and victim blaming.

You see there is a very stupid but pernicious meme that if a woman (or a man for that matter) dresses a certain way and is sexually assaulted they were “asking for it”. Basically if people think you’re a slut, you don’t deserve to be protected from the predation of rapists.

This idea that anyone, ever, under any circumstances deserves to be raped or assaulted is crazy on so many levels, but let me start with the first and biggest false assumption; Rape and sexual assault are not about sex. They are about domination and control. Again, for those in the cheap seats, it is not about the sex.

Second, it does not matter if someone does have a vigorous and healthy sex life. If does not matter if someone enjoys sex a lot. That does not mean they are “asking for it”.

These are the ideas that the Slut walk is trying to get out into the larger world. Wear what you want, be who you want and nothing that you do makes it okay for anyone to rape you, ever. There is one other thing that the Slut Walks do, they are making an attempt to reclaim the word Slut. Right now it is a good dehumanizing word, a justification for abuse. And it is used far, far too often. Back in the ‘70’s Dan Akroyd used to get screams of  laughter when he’d turn to Jane Curtin in the Point/Counter Point segment and say “Jane you ignorant slut”.

It was a funny joke, I laughed as a kid at the shock value of it. But it is a joke that can be ill afforded these days.

The event was not as big as the organizers had hoped. This is, after all, the first year for the Slut Walk here in Denver. Unlike Toronto where the Slut Walk began. This all started just this year, when a spokes person for the Toronto Police said:

One of the safety tips was for women not to dress like ‘sluts

While giving a talk on safety at a law school. The number of things wrong with this is legion and women around the world are standing up to say that enough is enough. There is no correlation between what one wears and sexual assault, none. Yet in the minds of many people (not just cynical cops) if someone wears sexy clothes, they are “asking for it”.
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Which brings us to the two organizers that I had a chance to talk with Emerald Green (and how cool a name is that?) and Bethany Feret. The two twenty-something Denverites say that they had heard about the Toronto Walk and wondered when there would be one in Denver. They finally came to the realization that if there was going to be a Slut Walk here, then they would have to do it themselves.

Organizing an event like this is harder than you might think but in just 90 days they managed to bring all the pieces together. The Facebook page for this event had more than 3,000 people saying they would attend, but the real number was probably closer to 300. Still, from small acorns do mighty oaks grow.

The point was not to have thousands of people come out (though that would have been nice, obviously) but rather to throw down a marker to say “This is wrong and it must end”.

Emerald and Bethany are not alone in this. Even though the Slut Walk is in its first year everywhere, there are more than 80 cities in 14 countries that will be having Slut Walks, everywhere from Mexico to India women and men are standing up and saying what should be obvious, no one deserves to be sexually assaulted.

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There is a culture in the United States that which seems to down play rape. And there is a lot of sexual assault and rape in this country, of both sexes. In Colorado 1 in 4 women and 1 in 17 men will be sexually assaulted. You all know four women and 17 men, so you can be fairly sure that one of them is the victim of sexual assault even if you have not been told.

Worse is the statistic that was on one of the posters up around the Greek Theater in Civic Center Park. It said that a recent survey of High School students found that 56% of girls and 76% of boys said that in some situations forced sex was acceptable. Maybe I am just reaching the old man part of my life, but that made me want to tear my hair out. What the hell is going on with our teens if this is a common belief?
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What I like best about the event was the crowd. You had everything from the Sex Workers Outreach group there in tight black leather, to the family in the picture at the top, Mom, Dad, and Daughters, obviously suburbanites, but there to say that no one knows what your sex life is like from your clothes and that Slut is not a word they were going to back away from, not even Dad.

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There were a ton of photographers there, after all if there are going to be people in skimpy clothes, it is worth sending someone to cover it. But it is not about what people wore or did not wear (your correspondents was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, I am a subdued type Slut) but that it puts the ideas out there and provides a sense of community.

As Emerald Greene said “If nothing else this is about giving a safe space for people to talk about sexual assault, whether they have been a victim or know a victim. This affects far more people than the general public is aware of and if using the word Slut brings that awareness up, then it is a good thing.”

There were no problems that I saw at the event, but the organizers tell me that they received a lot of heat while they are organizing on Facebook. Some folks thought it was just horrible that they were using the word Slut to draw attention to the issue; others thought that they should just shut up and go away. There were even threats of violence directed at the organizers.

Neither Bethany nor Emerald were sure that they would organize next years event, but they felt confident that someone would. They have actually done the hardest work, getting off their butts and getting something done. These are true citizen activists. They are not making a living doing this, they did it with very little support from anyone but their friends and family, and yet they held an event in the middle of major US city.

They are what we need a lot more of if we are to make our nation a better place. We need people who will stand up and say “This is enough, and I am going to do something about it!” after all you can only be an activist if you act. These young women have acted and they deserve our respect for doing so (not that everyone does not deserve respect as a human, but they went above and beyond that).

So, do Emerald and Bethany a favor, own your inner Slut and be loud in saying that your clothes are not consent. That no one deserves sexual assault, ever.

The floor is yours.

If you want to see all the pics from the Slut Walk Denver, you can see them at this link.

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Originally posted to Something the Dog Said on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 06:47 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Hippie and Colorado COmmunity.

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Comment Preferences

  •  T&R'd (17+ / 0-)

    A great diary StDS!

    You have it right, Rape is Not About Sex, it is about Power, Domination, Control and Fear.

    -6.25 -7.08 The glass is neither half-full nor half-empty. The glass is just twice as large as it needs to be.

    by Unit Zero on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 07:10:35 AM PDT

  •  Excellent diary!!! (10+ / 0-)

    This is an important issue to get out. Thank you for covering this.

    It's absolutely astonishing that the two organizers were threatened for getting this going. Outrageous! We have a long way to go.

    Thanks again, StDS!!

    (-9.25, -6.62) "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both" - Benjamin Franklin

    by trs on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 07:40:00 AM PDT

  •  I love those slut walks (12+ / 0-)

    It´s exactly the right approach to taps.

    I hate it when the police or other well-meaning people tell women to be careful, stay away from certain areas etc. That feels like ok´ing that women shall have less rights to the streets than men.

    •  it can be good advice to avoid certain areas. (5+ / 0-)

      in omaha it would be foolish to walk around the 30th and fort area late at night. Should you be able to walk down public streets and feel safe? yes... but some streets are not safe. walking down that street i mentioned i'd totally expect to be mugged..it's not hard to believe that the same street that a man would be mugged a woman would be sexually assaulted.

      •  You do not understand. (8+ / 0-)

        It's not about one bad neighborhood (which hey, women probably live there too!).  It's not about reasonable safety precautions, or paying attention to your surroundings, or any of the things that apply to every human being who's not currently riding around inside an M1 Abrams tank.

        This is about women and girls being told over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over

        and over

        and over

        and over

        that they bear all the responsibility to stop others' predatory actions against them.  

        This is about women and girls being told to LIVE SMALLER LIVES because of the threat of rape.

        You can't travel alone.

        You can't live in that neighborhood.  (Even if it's where you grew up, or all you can afford.)

        You can't take that job, because the commute would put you on public transportation after dark.

        You can't walk freely, alone, ever.  Or with a man, ever.  Or go to a party.  Or have a drink.  Or wear a dress.  Or flirt.  Or be "stuck up".  Or say no.  Or say yes, just once.

        Not just because of the RISKS.  But because if the risks turn into realities, IT'LL BE YOUR FAULT.

        And these women, men, and others, are saying NO.  NO.  ENOUGH.  WE WILL NOT LIVE SMALLER LIVES.  PUT THE BLAME WHERE IT BELONGS.

        •  shit. i almost live by the same rules. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Klaus

          i grew up in downtown omaha around the 35th and burt area. it was bad, but not as bad as it was around fort. I would never think of going anywhere around there now. Hell, i refuse to go east past 50th street except to go to the courthouse or the zoo. Violence, theft, sexual assaults are what await people in that area of town. if i found myself in 30th street and got assulted... i may not deserve it, crimes are the fault of criminals after all,... but i sure as hell should have known better then to put myself in that place to begin with.

          The fact is that criminals make ALL OF OUR LIVES smaller. We have to lock our door. We have to think of ever more rediculously elaborate passwords for our email. We have to watch what we say. We have to watch where we go. Our kids no longer are allowed to just roam around the neighborhood. They now have playdates. Blame who we should blame... but also realize that this is the world we live in and sometimes there are things places, and things people do that invite trouble. It's not right. We SHOULD be free to do as we please.. criminals make it otherwise.

          •  Yes, all crime is bad--esp. violent crime. (3+ / 0-)

            But rape targets women. You, as a class, are not targeted for being male. For your body, for what you wear, for your sexual availability. This is not a zero sum game. Our seeing the truth of your vulnerability to violent crime and our compassion for it is not lessened by your understanding that rape is a related but separate phenomenon that is used as a form of terrorism against a class of people we call children and women*.  

            Rape is condoned in many ways by all the arguments articulated in the signs people held at this rally. While your life is constricted by violence in your neighborhood, you are not faced w/ a general cultural narrative that states that somehow this is all your fault and those people who are potential violent threats to you are just good people who are misunderstood and if you didn't tempt them with your attire/behavior or send mixed messages or if you just became a Kung Fu master or blah blah blah then you would be fine. There is a whole criminal justice system that, while far from perfect (indeed, often as contemptible as those who engage in criminal behavior), it recognizes that violent crime such as what you describe is not ok and not your fault. When my husband was mugged, he was never asked what he did to "deserve' it, he was never asked to provide an accounting of his sexual/social behaviors of that evening, he was treated as a proper victim. There was no ambiguity. Because of the presumption of innocence, women must prove they withdrew consent. Otherwise, men are assumed to be innocent. So legally, women are essentially considered to be in a state of perpetual consent. That's just not true wrt a mugging.

            We can have intersecting oppressive systems at work. You are noting, rightfully, that violent crime affects everyone. Just like the corrupt mortgage industry. It affects everyone b/c, to a certain degree, the criminality wasn't explicitly targeting people of color. But when we look at the dynamic more deeply, we can see that there are racist aspects to the ways in which people of color and poor people were targeted for subprime loans, the ways in which those same people were often refused refinancing. IOW, there are truths that are generalizable about that situation and then there are additional important ways to understand how certain institutionalized racist and classist effects were/are also a part of the whole debacle. It doesn't help to say, well it's not really about race or class, we're all suffering from the mortgage industry corruption. And in the same way, it's not helpful to overgeneralize this issue as simply about violent crime when it is also something that is used very specifically to abuse, violate and control children and women.

            *I know men are raped too and those rapes occur with the same justifications of entitlement to sexual access of a weaker--read feminized-man  by a stronger --read masculinized man; of course women rape men too but that is very unusual and will also be aided by our greater understanding of rape as a tool for controlling the behavior of women and expressing male entitlement to sex via the use of violence.

            Let the yoke fall from our shoulders; Don’t carry it all, don’t carry it all; We are all our hands and holders; Beneath this bold and brilliant sun; And this I swear to all - The Decemberists

            by Tookish on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 12:29:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  below (0+ / 0-)
              Because of the presumption of innocence, women must prove they withdrew consent. Otherwise, men are assumed to be innocent. So legally, women are essentially considered to be in a state of perpetual consent. That's just not true wrt a mugging.

              i hear what you're saying. but there is a difference between rape and a mugging for law enforcement. There's never been a concentual mugging before. therefore everyone who has been mugged is a victim. Also the identity if the person mugged is not hidden from the media and so there is incentive to not falsely accuse.

              there is however concentual sex. and while rape maybe a black and white issue in reality.. to law enforcement there are levels of grey. Ex. couple hooks up and they start having sex. half way through she says "stop". he doesn't stop. while this has become a rape senario they can no longer rely on finding genetic material in the woman because they were having concentual sex up to a point. Therefore it becomes a he-said she-said.

              The questioning of a rape victim must seem extremely callus but the accusation of rape is such a serious charge it is often viewed as a worse crime than murder by the general public. It's made worse for the accused because he is drug through the media long before a guilty verdict has been handed down often times causing him to lose his family, friends, and job. a person accused of rape is truly alone whether they did it or not. This is why police questioning rape victims is important; because he will never be able to come out from under that charge. A murderer can be released from prison and go about his life. it might be hard to find a job but he's free to go where he wants. When you're on that sex offender registry, your life is perminently fucked.

              •  I'll finish your comment in a moment, but (0+ / 0-)

                I couldn't get past this:

                There's never been a concentual mugging before. therefore everyone who has been mugged is a victim.

                without saying something. And even though you can't really hear me, I'm screaming it: SEX AND RAPE ARE NOT THE SAME THING. SEX AND RAPE ARE NOT THE SAME THING. You know what makes them different? CONSENT.

                So when you say that there's never been a consensual mugging before, you are conflating rape and sex. They are not the same. Sex and rape are different. This confusion about sex and rape  is a very important reason for the need to distinguish rape from other types of violent crime. Many people are confused by this b/c we live in a culture that generally supports rape.

                Let the yoke fall from our shoulders; Don’t carry it all, don’t carry it all; We are all our hands and holders; Beneath this bold and brilliant sun; And this I swear to all - The Decemberists

                by Tookish on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 07:12:18 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I'm confused (0+ / 0-)

                I don't understand your point here:

                and while rape maybe a black and white issue in reality.. to law enforcement there are levels of grey. Ex. couple hooks up and they start having sex. half way through she says "stop". he doesn't stop. while this has become a rape senario they can no longer rely on finding genetic material in the woman because they were having concentual sex up to a point. Therefore it becomes a he-said she-said.

                You are responding to me as if I just left a comment and it wasn't in response to yours. My comment was in response to your point that this isn't about rape, it's about violence. I didn't bring up how law enforcement deals w/ rape and I don't understand how that relates to your point or my response to your point.

                This is simply not true:

                The questioning of a rape victim must seem extremely callus but the accusation of rape is such a serious charge it is often viewed as a worse crime than murder by the general public.

                Women are raked over the coals when they accuse anyone of rape, it is extremely difficult to prosecute due to women having to prove they have withdrawn consent (perpetual state of consent--wonder how you would feel surrounded by large men who wanted your body, felt entitled, and your body was viewed by the law as in a perpetual state of consent that you had to prove you withdrew if you "had sex" i/e; were raped) and most rape accusations don't even go to trial. So you've got a severely underreported rate, low frequency of bringing to trial, and low conviction rate. Tell me again how awful it is for men to be "accused". And the quickest way to solve that problem is to acknowledge the difference between rape and sex, fight our rape culture, and acknowledge that the bar for sex must be enthusiastic consent, not just "no means no". If enthusiastic consent was the yardstick, there would be far less confusion about the difference between rape and sex.

                I don't know where you get this:

                This is why police questioning rape victims is important; because he will never be able to come out from under that charge.

                but I find it disturbing that you appear to have much greater empathy and concern for those who are falsely accused than for those (of FAR greater number, I can assure you) who are raped and whose attackers are never even recognized as assailants or brought to justice. Rape is rampant and it's not just a band of 100 marauding males going around everywhere and doing it all. There are many many men out there who are raping without getting caught. And women are having to live with this. False accusations are extremely rare and are most likely due to men who feel entitled to sex and aren't looking for that "enthusiastic yes".

                This is just not true:

                your life is perminently fucked.

                When you are (in the extremely unlikely event) accused of rape, you will most likely never even see the inside of a courtroom. If you are never even brought up on charges (which is far more likely) b/c the woman slept w/ too many people that week (and of course we know that consensual sex has fuck all to do w/ rape but that's not what our rape trials deal w/--for those situations is is absolutely women being held up to sexual double standards and confusion between rape and consensual sex), the accused will receive a great deal of sympathy, the woman will be vilified, and the reason for this is that "the bitch must've lied" is a very popular belief about women who accuse a man of rape.

                Hence the entire point of your comment that I"m here responding to (i.e.; men are ruined forever from a false rape accusation, and women do that a lot and have to be grilled so we know for sure that she didn't lie about the sex she had and just regrets retrospectively).

                Let the yoke fall from our shoulders; Don’t carry it all, don’t carry it all; We are all our hands and holders; Beneath this bold and brilliant sun; And this I swear to all - The Decemberists

                by Tookish on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 07:29:48 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Rape and property crimes are not at all (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sb, cai, Tookish

        comparable, and it's rather sick for you to suggest otherwise. And given that 73% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, I have to wonder why you feel the need to interject the "bad neighborhood" red herring. Neighborhoods high in sexual assault don't consistently correspond to neighborhoods with high rates of property crime. You pulled that argument out of your ass. Because, I guess, it feels good to you to hold victims responsible rather than rapists? This worries me, to say the least.

  •  Somewhere in a storage carton, (13+ / 0-)

    I have a tiny little purple t-shirt that used to fit me in the 70s, that says "WOMEN UNITE! TAKE BACK THE NIGHT!" Too bad we have still, 35 years after those marches, not gotten the message across that rape is not caused by how women dress or by where they choose to go and when. In fairness, we sort of slacked off creating public events about that message, there in the middle when we got busy with other things. I'm glad those events are back -- they're obviously still needed. Thanks, Dog.

  •  Offensive! (3+ / 0-)

    Anyone who wears smurf blue undies just is too much for me to bare.... ;-p

    Great post! Thanks for putting to a diary, I hadn't heard about this. T & R!

  •  shite, my daughter missed it (6+ / 0-)

    ;-)

    I wonder how many of my friends were there. . . . If I had known I would have told all of them.

    Bumper sticker seen on I-95; "Stop Socialism" my response: "Don't like socialism? GET OFF the Interstate highway!"

    by Clytemnestra on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 08:56:49 AM PDT

  •  This is a wonderful idea! (6+ / 0-)

    This is one of the many ways we can push back against the War on Women.  We need to have a lot more of these events.  

  •  I have a daughter. Thanks to you & SlutWalkers! NT (6+ / 0-)

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 10:05:59 AM PDT

  •  Heh, here in Toronto (7+ / 0-)

    this has been on the news for months. One stupid comment by a cop who is still living in the mentality of the 20th century.... and a worldwide movement is born. Pretty cool really.

    You could be listening to Netroots Radio. "We are but temporary visitors on this planet. The microbes own this place" <- Me

    by yuriwho on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 10:41:57 AM PDT

  •  Love this. Thank you for posting on (2+ / 0-)

    your local event and thanks for continuing to challenge the conflation of sex and rape. If it's not consensual, it's rape. Full stop.

    Let the yoke fall from our shoulders; Don’t carry it all, don’t carry it all; We are all our hands and holders; Beneath this bold and brilliant sun; And this I swear to all - The Decemberists

    by Tookish on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 12:06:25 PM PDT

    •  You're very welcome. As soon as I heard (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tookish, FindingMyVoice

      there was going to be a slut walk, I knew I'd go. Since I am a blogger, that means I'd write about it too.

      I just wish there was less need for this kind of thing. I don't get the condoning of rape. Even in humor, it is just never acceptable.

      And then when you add victim blaming, it becomes a heinous circus, full of malignant clowns.

      Getting Democrats together and keeping them that way is like herding cats that are high on meth, through L.A., during an earthquake, in the rain -6.25, -6.10

      by Something the Dog Said on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 01:05:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Also love the sign (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Something the Dog Said

    "Things that Cause Rape" with the choices. We should post a poll with those choices here. I honestly wonder what the outcome would be. There are many commenters here who are surprisingly confused about this basic concept.

    Let the yoke fall from our shoulders; Don’t carry it all, don’t carry it all; We are all our hands and holders; Beneath this bold and brilliant sun; And this I swear to all - The Decemberists

    by Tookish on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 12:08:11 PM PDT

  •  I can't get behind slutwalks (0+ / 0-)

    It just doesn't make sense to me. They aren't even signing people up for volunteer work of raising funds to help victims. Here are some differing thoughts on the matter that really made me stop and think about it.  

    •  So, you are not behind Richard Prior and Red f (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FindingMyVoice

      Foxx's attempts to reclaim "nigger"?

      Same deal. Shocking, yes. But at the same time it has walked a hateful and dehumanizing word down a couple of notches.

      They did it to draw attention to the way that word was used, Lenny Bruce did it too. It was not just for shock value that Red Foxx said "nigger" every third word, it was to break the standard connotations of that word.

      Words and their underlying meaning have a lot of power in our society, more than people really think. If events like Slut Walk are successful then the unspoken meaning will change, and that will help change attitudes about sexuality and gender.

      You can't always go at these things like a liberal arts professor. Sometimes you have to seize the meme by its throat and change it.

      Getting Democrats together and keeping them that way is like herding cats that are high on meth, through L.A., during an earthquake, in the rain -6.25, -6.10

      by Something the Dog Said on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 01:11:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I lie every time I post here (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        yuriwho

        My name really isn't Sprinkles, and I'm here a lot - which mean I have a problem with truthiness ...

        So if somebody attacks me and leaves his semen all over the place, I'm just a lying slut when I accuse him of sexual assault because I've been lying to thousands about my real name....and maybe other things (like I color my hair)....

        So I suppose I can join the world of sluts - like this woman:

        The accuser still maintains she was attacked, and there is physical evidence to support her account, prosecutors say. But she has given them so many false statements that prosecutors aren't certain whether her accusation of an attack is a lie as well, or whether her sexual contact with Mr. Strauss-Kahn was consensual, as his lawyers contend, law-enforcement officials said. Mr. Strauss-Kahn's attorneys have said they intend to seek dismissal of the case.

        And  I wasn't even the one who sprinkled him/herself around the room.

        •  I don't think anyone serious has called her (0+ / 0-)

          a slut. They are calling he a liar. A more serious allegation.

          I understand it's related to false statement made in her application for asylum. So they are also trying to deport her and shut up all future women who might try to speak truth to power.

          I think a jury of her peers would find her truthful.

          A jury of bankers would favor the ex-chief of the IMF.

          The jury system is largely broken IMO because the media has no truth, little fact and almost no analysis.

          You could be listening to Netroots Radio. "We are but temporary visitors on this planet. The microbes own this place" <- Me

          by yuriwho on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 11:11:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Have you actually served on a jury? (0+ / 0-)

            Because you comment shows a couple of fundamental misunderstandings of the jury system.

            First off, it is unlikely in the extreme that there would be a jury made up of IMF bankers or all service employees. Neither sides lawyers would allow it.

            But even if there were, their job is not to decide on the things presented in the media, but only what is presented in court. They are charged with deciding if a witness or victim is credible.

            Have served several times, I can tell you that while the defense would present evidence that might discredit DSK accuser, that does not mean that the jury will automatically find that she is lying.

            The jury system is not broken, it is the same as it always was, looking for a group of people who will weigh what is presented to them and decide.

            Getting Democrats together and keeping them that way is like herding cats that are high on meth, through L.A., during an earthquake, in the rain -6.25, -6.10

            by Something the Dog Said on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 04:55:40 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

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