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Men Asked To 'Walk a Mile in Her Shoes'
St. Mary's City, MD - 3/27/2012
By Dick Myers
It’s a matter of solidarity. Men are being asked to “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” on Sunday April 1 at St. Mary’s College. The 2nd annual event sponsored by the college and Walden Behavioral Health is a march aimed at stopping rape, sexual assault and gender violence and is part of an international movement of similar events.
The movement was started in 2001 by Frank Baird, who was working with victims of sexual assault at a counseling center at California State University. It was created as a way to get men more involved in efforts to end sexualized violence. According to Baird, “Violence against women does not just affect women. Men are hurt and angered when the women they care about are raped. Men are hurt and angered when they try to develop relationships with women in an atmosphere of fear, mistrust and blame. And the same violence that targets women also targets men because rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power, control and violence.”
Statistics show that 80 percent of all sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim and 90 percent of the perpetrators are male.
The St. Mary’s College event will be held on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the track with the rain location at the adjacent Athletic Center. The free event is open for all members of the community but there is a special focus on getting male youth and men of all ages involved. The men will be asked to participate by doing laps in women’s shoes while women of all ages are invited to come out and support the men and participate in the “In Another’s Shoes” and “Honoring Survivors” laps. Shoes will be provided or participants can bring their own shoes.
The event also features a Leader’s Lap in which community leaders are invited to come out and support the event with a lap and photo opportunity. And, there will be activities for all members of the family. The Bay Net will have a team participating in this year’s event.
Participants can preregister by using this link http://www.waldensierra.org/wp-content/uploads/Walk-a-Mile-in-Her-Shoes-2012-Registration-Form.pdf for a registration form, although preregistration is not required to participate. Donations, especially larger-sized high-heel shoes are being accepted. Sponsors include Wyle and Guy Distributing.
The event was started last year on the college campus by their First Responders Network, which is a group of students trained to respond to incidents of sexualized violence on campus. Organizers hope they can build on the initial work last year to get a much larger turnout from the community.
Laura Webb, Walden’s community engagement manager, said when a man puts on high-heel shoes, “It makes him feel more vulnerable,” which, of course, is the idea -- to get men to understand what a woman goes through. Ironically some of the earliest depictions of high-heel shoes from Egyptian murals dating from 3500 B .C. show both males and females wearing them.
According to an on-line Random History: “Standing in heels, a woman presents herself already half-walking while at the same time reducing the length of her step, fostering the illusion of speed while suggesting the promise of an imminent fall.”
“Walden is a non-profit behavioral health agency that has been serving Southern Maryland since `073. Their programs include crisis intervention, trauma and mental health counseling, and a comprehensive continuum of substance abuse treatment and prevention,” according to their brochure. They serve children, adolescents and adults.
According to Webb, from July 1 of last year until the end of February this year Walden has handled almost 400 cases of gender and sexualized violence, which include domestic violence, sexual assault, rape and date violence.
Walden operates a 24-hour crisis hotline at 301-863-6661. It is available for any type of problem. Staff can help with domestic violence, sexual assault and rape, homelessness, substance abuse, suicide prevention and family conflict. They have facilities in California, Charlotte Hall, Lexington Park and Waldorf.
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