The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

April 3, 2013

His Red High Heels

Men to walk in women’s shoes to raise violence awareness

BY MARY WICOFF
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — The red shoes were a bit snug, and the mayor could barely walk a short distance in the 2-inch heels. “I couldn’t walk across the room in these things,” Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said, jokingly. “I don’t know how (women) do this.”

Eisenhauer — wearing different shoes — will be among those participating in the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event on April 13, sponsored by the Vermilion County Rape Crisis Center.

The event, which asks men to literally walk a mile in women’s shoes, is a fun way to draw attention to the serious issue of sexualized violence.

Joking about the red shoes aside, Eisenhauer said the walk is “for a fantastic cause. The message we’re trying to get out is incredibly important.”

That message about sexual violence against women and men is one that doesn’t get discussed much, he said, and he hopes the event will generate more discussion. The issue affects people not just one day a year, but every day.

Registration for the walk will start at 9 a.m. at Temple Plaza, and the walk will start at 10 a.m. Participants will walk a mile, leaving from the plaza at North and Vermilion streets, going north to Seminary, to Gilbert and back to Temple. In case of rain, the walk will be held at the Danville High School Fieldhouse.

About 200 pairs of sparkly gold shoes with heels in men’s sizes will be available for those who don’t bring their own. The shoes are on loan from the University of Illinois, and were used by the Men Against Sexual Violence.

Suzzen Borcz, a counselor with the Vermilion County Rape Crisis Center, said men are welcomed to bring their own shoes, such as tennis shoes — but they should be dressed up with sparkles and bows and other feminine touches. Or men may bring their own high heels, and see how far they can get.

Women and children are invited to walk, too, but high heels are optional for them.

Borcz said Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is an international program, and this is the first time it’s been done in Danville. All proceeds go to the Rape Crisis Center, and come back to the community in the form of prevention education, counseling and advocacy services.

“It’s something different we wanted to do,” she said. “It’ll be fun to watch the men try to walk in heels.”

She didn’t know what kind of turnout to expect, but said some businesses are putting teams together. People may show up to support the walkers and the cause, even if they decide not to walk themselves.

The crisis center will have pamphlets and information available.

Jesse Pierce, who’s coordinating the walk with Borcz, stressed that this is a man’s issue — that is, men need to stand up for women and take responsibility.

Men are affected when women in their lives are victimized. Also, sexual violence happens to men, as well.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is a positive way for men to show that they are taking a stand against violence while also raising money to support local rape crisis services.

A need for dialogue

Sexualized violence is epidemic, according to the Walk A Mile in Her Shoes website. Every two minutes someone in America is raped; one in six American women is a victim of sexual assault.

Each year, an ever-increasing number of men, women and their families are joining the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence.

The point of the walk is to get people to talk about sexualized violence. People unfamiliar with sexualized violence don’t want to know it exists, while people who have experienced violence themselves want to forget about it. It’s difficult to get people talking about the problem, but the walk is the first step.

For preventive education, it helps men better understand and appreciate women’s experiences, thus changing perspectives, helping improve gender relationships and decreasing the potential for violence, according to the website. For healing, it informs the community that services are available for recovery.

It demonstrates that men are willing and able to be courageous partners with women in making the world a safer place.

FYI