EVANSVILLE —Hundreds of men donning high heels, pumps, sandals and other types of women’s shoes rallied at the University of Southern Indiana campus Tuesday afternoon as part of an annual effort to raise awareness of rape and sexual violence.
“We’re trying to convey that men can put themselves in women’s shoes to stand up and do something different in situations,” said organizer Christina Wicks, a senior victim support specialist with the Albion Fellows Bacon Center.
The nonprofit agency that serves victims of domestic and sexual violence has planned the event all seven years it has been staged.
The “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event winds through the University of Southern Indiana Campus Tuesday evening.
Over 500 students and community members participated in the annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.” Men slipped on female footwear and walked a mile around the campus in between scheduled speakers.
Wicks said a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey ranked Indiana as No. 2 in the number of forced sex incidents involving teens.
In 2012, six women were killed by their partners in Vanderburgh and Gibson counties, and an incident being investigated as a murder-suicide left a Posey County couple dead on Sunday. This spike in domestic incidents points to the need for events such as this, Wicks said.
“It definitely goes to show why we need to increase awareness and why we need to make sure people know where to go when they need help,” said Wicks, who’s been with Albion for nine years.
Evansville Police Chief Billy Bolin, sporting a pair of red high heels, said the number of domestic incidents that resulted in death last year is “unacceptable,” but he added he doesn’t see a trend developing regionally.
As for the rally, Bolin said it’s been good about raising awareness in the community about domestic and sexual incidents.
“I think for the women, it empowers them,” he said. “If one of them has something going on like that, hearing these people talk and seeing this may help them come forward.”
Two shared their stories of sexual and domestic abuse: USI senior Chrissy Harris and Andrew Gregory spoke before the crowd, offering a sobering moment to the event.
“ ... I felt the force of a line drive softball to the eye. He had hit me for the first time. I remember holding my face and crying. I just wish I would have realized then that the sentence ‘I won’t do it again’ was just a lie,” said Harris on an abusive relationship she had with her high-school boyfriend. It took her months to leave her boyfriend, and even longer to come out about the sexual abuse she experienced, she said.
Gregory, who spoke quickly, said he was sexually abused between the ages of 4 and 6. The traumatic events left him scarred and sometimes angry and confrontational with people. It wasn’t until his 20s that he sought help through Albion, he said before a silent crowd.
“I learned (with help from Albion) how to take back control of what was my mine all along: my life,” Gregory said.
Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann, Chief Deputy Dave Wedding and Sheriff Eric Williams were among those who walked the mile with the crowd.
Williams, a USI grad, has been to all seven “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” events, he said. Tuesday’s crowd was larger than previous years, he said.
“It shows the students really care,” Williams said.
Student Melanie Gipson, a USI senior graduating this year, said she’s walked every year since it started to support her aunt who was killed by her boyfriend eight years ago.
“They had a domestic violent relationship for about seven years on and off. He ended up taking her life,” Gipson said.
She supports groups like Albion Fellows Bacon Center for the help they provide.
“Other people should just have enough respect for someone else to treat them just equally no matter how they’re dressed or how they’re acting,” she said.
The crowd — estimated by campus security to be more than 500 — consisted mostly of students associated with fraternities and sororities wearing their “Greek Week” T-shirts in lieu of the white T-shirts emblazoned with “Put yourself in her shoes” provided by Albion for registering for the walk
Link to original post: http://www.courierpress.com/news/2013/apr/10/the-students-really-care-jumpwalk-a-mile-in-her/