OMG shoes – Men strut their stuff to fight sexual assault

A parade of males in very interesting foot apparel shuffled and stomped their way around campus in order to promote awareness of rape and sexual violence.

On Saturday, April 19, approximately 34 men and women participated in the event “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” in which males volunteered to wear high heels in a variety of styles to literally “walk a mile in her shoes” and promote an understanding of the difficult issue of rape in a creative way.

Sue Shapiro, sophomore art education major, said, “I think it is important that not just women are campaigning. It is good that men and women are working together to bring about awareness.”

The mile walk consisted of a loop that started in Quimby’s Prairie, continued through Brower Student Center, down between the New Library and Eickhoff Hall and was then repeated.

Joining the men in heels were other men, women and families, and even two babies in a stroller. To explain the cause to passersby, both male and female participants held signs with sayings like “We are all affected by rape” and “I become a victim when she is one.” Many observers in the Alumni Grove and Library Café were very interested in the event and some even asked of the heel-clad men, “Are those guys?”

Varun Maheshwari, sophomore biology major and one of the males participating, said, “We genuinely support the cause. Rape in any circumstance is wrong and happens far too often.”

Hannah Pagán, freshman open options School of Culture and Society major, and Angela Sekerke, freshman mathematics major, were co-organizers of the event.

Pagán explained that she was looking for a way to not only to deal with acts of sexual violence committed against three people she is very close to, but to spread awareness about the issue to prevent others from experiencing sexual violence.

She got the idea from her sister, who attended a similar walk at Ramapo College of New Jersey the year before and from the national Walk a Mile in Her Shoes organization.

“I found myself lacking the opportunity to educate the public and prevent others from becoming victims,” explained Pagán. “This was the perfect opportunity to do just that.”

The double circuit was followed by a presentation in room 202 East in the student center by Susan Adams, a speaker from Womanspace of Mercer County, where the proceeds from the event are being donated.

She talked about the services offered at the facility and stressed that a large number of the people that Womanspace helps, approximately one in 12, are actually male.

“Though that was one of my goals through this march, to express that men and women are both victims no matter who the gender violence is aimed at, I was unaware that it was such a large percentage,” Pagán said.

Funds for the event and the donation were raised completely by Pagán, Sekerke and other participating clubs, including the White Ribbon Campaign, some members of Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority and Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority and Voices of Planned Parenthood.

Also helping out were some women’s and gender studies students and friends and families of the participants and organizers.

Most of the money for the event was raised by requesting donations for the cause from friends and families of the event members and other students and professors at the College. However, money was also raised through a Coldstone Creamery fundraiser, a bake sale in the Alumni Grove during the event and a $5 registration fee from the marchers.

Even though some shoes were donated, about one-third of the money went to buying shoes for the guys who needed large sizes, from the national organization-recommended The rest is being donated to Womanspace of Mercer County.

Pagán hopes to make this an annual event and is already starting to think about changes to next year’s march. However, the one thing that won’t change is the pain felt by the guys walking a mile in her shoes.

Tom Dimino, sophomore biology major, said, “I give props to all women, and my mom, and my sister, and anyone who has to walk in these things. This is tough.”