By Carina Sorrentino
On Thursday, Oct. 24 Safe Space sponsored the event “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” as a way to raise awareness about domestic violence, sexual assault and gender violence.
The walk was proposed for the first time in 2001 by Frank Baird, in collaboration with the Valley Trauma Center in California. Now, 12 years later, the event is nationally recognized as a means to embody the ages-old saying, “You don’t understand what someone is experiencing until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
The initial Walk a Mile movement began with a small group of men walking in heels around a park in California to raise awareness and get people talking.
Since then, the cause has gained momentum and is celebrated worldwide. Tens of thousands of men have participated, showing their dedication by walking a mile in women’s high heels.
People have created sponsorships and have began using the event as a way to raise money for rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and programs that provide education on sexual violence prevention and remediation.
This year was Safe Space’s first time sponsoring the event. With the success of their annual Take Back the Night during the spring term, the club felt that it was necessary to hold another large event earlier in the year to keep the conversation relevant surrounding sexual assault and other related topics. President of Safe Space Victoria Bailey ‘14, said, “This event posed a fun, interactive way to not only begin the discussion about sexual assault, healthy versus unhealthy relationships and gender violence, but to also reiterate to the campus that we are here as a support system throughout the year.”
On Thursday, over 50 men signed up to participate, which exceeded the club’s expectations, as they only had 50 pairs of heels.
Safe Space reached out to the Intrafraternal Greek Council and individual fraternities on campus who were eager to get involved. The men walked around the campus, while female friends and faculty cheered them on.
At times, the women even stepped in to hold the hands of male participants to keep them from falling. The excitement of those who walked and the collaboration of those who came out to watch made the event successful and inspiring. Smiles were plentiful and students truly enjoyed helping one another while communicating a positive message.
Bailey reinforced that, by presenting the topic of sexual assault and violence through a lighthearted event, the barriers that make people uncomfortable in discussions can be broken down. While many do not feel at ease addressing these issues , Walk A Mile In Her Shoes provides a safe gateway to foster an open environment. Students can be inspired to address the questions they may have as men or women, such as, ‘What actually qualifies as consent?’ or ‘How do I know if I am in an unhealthy relationship?’
Students who have questions or concerns are encouraged to speak up and seek advice from the multitude of campus organizations that can provide answers. Bailey’s advice to the campus community in regards to relationships and safety is simply to communicate. Furthermore, in light of the recent concerns about sexual assaults within the Union community, it is vital that students make the right choices when traveling from place to place. Bailey remarked, “Whenever you are walking anywhere, especially at night or on the weekends, go with a group. If you go to a party with five friends, make sure you are leaving the party with all five friends. A lot of the time, one person out of the group doesn’t realize that their friends have all left, and this places them in a dangerous situation. Watch out for each other and yourself.”
Safe Space provides unique support to Union as a student-run organization with the training to assist peers in times of need.
Members are taught how to properly listen and guide victims through medical exams, judicial hearings or counseling.
While there are an abundance of administrative resources for victims of sexual assault or violent at Union, Safe Space offers a source of peer support for those students who need it.