Men ‘Walk’ in high heels to raise sexual assault awareness

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Rudy Vincent C. Juanito

The men who attended the "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event Wednesday, March 7, gathered on the steps of Hawaii Hall for a photo op.

Rain poured over the men and women gathered on the field of Hawaii Hall at University of Hawaii-Manoa Wednesday, March 7. At the same time, the sun shone above crowd of red and white shirts who were participating in the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event.

The sun shower mirrored the emotions of the people present at the event. While the rain reflected the sad reality of sexual assault within the nation, the rays of the sun signified that light is being set on the issue as men and women of Hawaii acknowledge the problem and prepare to fight it.

“This is a tremendously important event, because truly, there is no room in our society, and certainly not here in UH-Manoa for rape, sexual assault or gender based violence or violence of any kind against another human,’ said UH Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw who was one of the guest speakers invited to talk about sexual assault during Wednesday’s event. “… One thing I know is if you bring a lot of great students, faculty and staff together, you can solve that problem and you are the problem solvers to make the future free of these types of negative experiences for anybody.”

This was the second “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event that UH-Manoa has hosted. Men who want to protest against sexual violence volunteered to wear women’s high-heel shoes and walk around in them around campus.

“It is critically important to raise the awareness,” Hinshaw said. “What you’re doing today, educate folks about it, and talk about it because it is everyone’s problem. It is not soley a women’s problem, It is not solely a men’s problem. It is everybody’s problem and I really appreciate the folks coming out today, participate in this event, which gives it visibility and how important it is to each and everyone of us.”

Speakers from the community include UH Campus Security officer Reymundo Gomez who shared his experience as a boy living in a home where domestic violence was prevalent. His mother was a victim of domestic violence from his father and this caused his brother, sister and himself a life without “the conventional guidance of both parents.” The events of his young life motivate him to be a better person now that he has a family of his own.

“Now that I’m a parent, I want my children, as well as my nieces and nephews, to be raised in an environment without violence,” Gomez said.

UH teacher and social worker Joe Bloom points out that statistics show that it is the men who commit most of the sexual assault, the event brought light to the men who want to put a stop to such violence. Aside from the men who came to the event and donned high heels, representatives of various men’s organization came up on stage to speak about their disdain on the issue.

UH senior and Kappa Sigma fraternity member Isaac Lipscomb spoke on behalf of his fraternity to point out what fraternities are truly about contrary stereotypes.

“Fraternities, we often times are associated with throwing big parties and drinking and being degrading towards women,” Lipscomb said while standing on black high-heel shoes. “… We actually stand for the exact opposite. Pretty much what we’re taught to do (is) to actually act as gentlemen and what we’re supposed to do is pass that down to our brothers while current brothers teach that to pledges and stuff like that.”

The 22nd football coach of UH, Norm Chow, also came up on stage with the whole UH football coaching staff to pledge their support for the event and join in the parade.

Dr. Nancy Caraway, who is the wife of Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, was the last to speak during the event before the march was set into motion.

“I am so happy for the work you do,” Caraway said. “It is never, never too late to call attention to these issues and every day and every moment, we can act as a witness against it and stand in solidarity.”

About 120 pairs of women’s high-heel shoes were lined up on one of the tables and were loaned to the men participating in the event, which, as of last Wednesday, has been proclaimed to be a yearly, state event.

The proclamation signed by Hawaii Gov. Abercrombie states that March 7 will be “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Day.” It was read by UH assistant vice chancellor for students and dean of students Dr. Lorie Ideta.

The men wearing high-heel shoes were led out by the men of the UH Campus Security and were followed by the support of the women they came to protest for. They walked around a designated path, which were marked by picket signs that showed statistics about sexual assault in the nation.

“This (is) a great event,” Gomez said while event organizers passed out yellow evaluation forms signifying the end of the event. “… Next year? Oh yeah. You can count me in.”