Sunday, April 7 marked the third annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event here at St. Mary’s. Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is an organization founded in 2001 dedicated to raising awareness for, and bringing an end to, rape, sexual assault, and gender violence.
Walk a Mile is an event that takes place across the nation and consists of many different activities. Participants shared expressive art pieces, survivor stories, and adorned a fence with white t-shirts, each one with a personal stories about rape or sexual violence written on it. But the event is most well-known for its mile-long walk in which men wear women’s high heeled shoes.
At St. Mary’s, the First Responders Network and a Southern Maryland non-profit social health organization known as Walden Sierra, partnered up to organize the experience. It was a beautiful day out on the track behind the Michael P. O’Brien athletic center and the crowd was enthusiastic and ready to walk. The walk itself consisted of four laps, totaling a mile. The first lap was a “Leader’s Lap” for team leaders and community organizers. The second lap was a “Men’s Only Lap” where men adorned themselves with women’s high heels for their portion of the walk. Next was the “Survivor’s Lap”, and finally an “Empowerment Lap”, which encouraged all supporters and attendees to walk around the track.
This event has consistently received enthusiastic participation. For such a serious and morose topic you would expect a more somber crowd, but without fail everyone was in good spirits and happy to be doing their part. SGA President and Senior Andrew Reighart said, “As a man I think it’s very important to be present in solidarity with women to prevent and discourage relationship violence. This event is a positive way to take stance against something that is so reprehensible.
This year the turnout was overwhelming. According to organizers somewhere around 150 people, comprised of members from the college, the surrounding community, and visiting survivors, attended this year’s event, twice the turnout from last year. When asked about this year’s staggering attendance, St. Mary’s College of Maryland President Joseph Urgo said, that he had been impressed when he had heard the number of attendees had doubled since last year. President Urgo added, “it’s just a great show of solidarity for a problem that effects us all, either as women or men who care about women. I’m really happy how many off-campus community members came out to support, as well as students.
The event seemed to go above and beyond the mission of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, which reads that they wish to, “create a unique and powerful public experience that educates individuals and communities about the causes of sexualized violence.” When asked about what she felt Walk a Mile and Her Shoes was doing, First Responder Coordinator, junior Kara Kittel said that it is “a great chance for the community to come together with St. Mary’s, and that it is just an empowering experience and emphasizes how much people care about this issue.
However, it was Dean of Students Roberto Ifill, who was also in attendance, whose words really spoke to me, and to what the nature of what Walk a Mile in Her Shoes means for this community. When asked how he felt about the event, and what it meant for this community Dean Ifill said, “[this event] is a real testament to the students and the community here at St. Mary’s. We can all do something, we do not all have to be superhero’s to stand in the way of violence, but we do have to hold each other accountable. This community does not need someone to swoop down and tell people what is wrong. We know what is right and wrong and how people should be treated. And I am very impressed by this event.”
If you were unable to come out to this year’s event, come show your support next year. The event is public, open to anyone and everyone and is an incredibly moving experience. As the saying for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes goes, step one is talking the talk, but step two is to walk the walk.