Wearing heels for hope: Walk A Mile In Her Shoes promotes sexual assault awareness

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Wearing heels for hope: Walk A Mile In Her Shoes promotes sexual assault awareness

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Men in high-heeled shoes are not a typical sight on the UW-Whitewater campus, but on Wednesday, April 24, men and women from the campus and community put on the tallest shoes they could find and walked to raise awareness about sexual assault.

The event, known as Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, was hosted by University Health and Counseling Services in conjunction with People Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse of Jefferson County, DECA and the Intrafraternity Council as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Whitney Henley, wellness coordinator at UHCS, said the event was bigger than previous years. She said about 82 people attended this year’s event.

“I’m really excited and happy about it,” Henley said. “I think we had a great turnout, and it seems like all the attendees had a lot of fun.”

The organizations contributing to the event were able to raise nearly $3,000 for PADA. PADA provides support services for victims of domestic and sexual assault and advocates for the prevention of domestic and sexual violence.

Holli Zambrowicz, graduate assistant at UHCS and one of the event’s coordinators, said working with other groups helped Walk A Mile In Her Shoes be successful.

“There was definitely more collaboration this year with different organizations on campus like DECA and IFC, and I think that helped get the word out more, because we doubled and almost tripled our attendance rate from last year,” Zambrowicz said.

Although the walk to raise awareness is a large part of Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, this year’s event included a number of speakers and activities as well.

Some highlights included a speaker who was a survivor of sexual assault. Rep. Andy Jorgensen also spoke about Denim Day and the importance of raising awareness about sexual assault and violence issues.

Other speakers included Allen Jones, a representative of the No More campaign – a campaign that aims to end domestic violence and sexual assault – as well as the assistant District Attorneys from Fort Atkinson and the sexual assault nurse examiner from Fort Health Care.

In April, UHCS hosted several events to raise awareness about sexual assault.

“I think the combination of all three of our events this month, Denim Day and Take Back The Night included, give different perspectives on the issue,” Zambrowicz said. “Take Back The Night and Denim Day are more geared toward survivors and assisting them whereas Walk A Mile is engaging men and people who aren’t aware of the issue.”

DECA president, junior Matthew Ross, was one of many participants in this year’s walk. He also was one of the men who chose to wear high heels to raise awareness.

“It was definitely a different experience,” Ross said. “I found out I’m actually pretty decent at walking in heels, which I’m not sure if I’m proud of or not, but it happened. It was different. I’m not used to that.”

Ross got involved in the event through his work with DECA.

“Every year, DECA works with a non-profit organization and tries to support them. This year, one of the programs we were supporting was the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence,” he said. “Since we were working on that, we saw that the Health Center was hosting an event to help against sexual violence and raise some awareness, so we decided to team up with them.”

Because sexual violence is not a topic people often speak openly about, Ross believes it is even more important to raise awareness about it through events like Walk A Mile In Her Shoes.

“It’s not easy for people to talk about,” Ross said. “But it’s really great seeing people come together and actually speak about this cause, because there are a large number of problems throughout the community, and it’s great seeing people coming together in support, to raise awareness and also to raise the funds to go toward it.”

One of Ross’ favorite experiences from the event occurred as he was helping out at one of the booths that had been set up around the Hamilton Room for different organizations.

“When I was working the table for shoes, I had a younger boy, he must’ve been in elementary school, come up to me with his mother, and he flat out told me, ‘I’m wearing heels for this,’” Ross said. “He was determined to not wear shoes, because he really wanted to do something and have that kind of voice.”

Even though Sexual Assault Awareness Month has ended, there are still ways students and staff can work to spread awareness about sexual violence issues.

“For students in particular, we have a new student organization called Supporting a Violence-free Environment,” Henley said. “That group is a group of students who are dedicated to raising awareness about sexual violence, dating violence, harassment and stalking issues on campus.”

Zambrowicz said faculty and staff can work to spread awareness by joining the Sexual Assault Prevention Advisory Committee.

Individuals can learn more about these organizations by emailing [email protected]