Students, community members slip on heels to walk for rape, sexual assault, gender violence awareness

PHOTOS BY BEN GUMERINGER
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STORY BY JESSICA JASPERSON
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Sounds of a stampede were heard throughout the CMU on Sunday as 119 participants sported an array of heels ranging from sparkly pink and flowered print to strappy and open toed.

The fourth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event brought the community together to not only speak about the issues of women, but to literally be placed in their shoes.

Frank Baird created Walk a Mile in Her Shoes in 2001. It has now grown into a worldwide movement where men walk a mile in high heels to raise awareness and funds for local rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and education.

Four years ago, Aaron Lund and Megan Voigt approached Nancy Boyle, volunteer and training coordinator at the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, for volunteer and event opportunities for their senior level experience class.

“Both of them brought up how they themselves didn’t know how to respond if a friend approached them about a sexual assault or a rape,” Boyle said. “From there they chose this event.”

The Extraordinary Gentlemen organization and the Dragon Entertainment Group make sure the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes tradition continues every year. Lund organized the Extraordinary Gentlemen organization last year, and it has officially become an MSUM organization this past summer with 11 members.

Wes Kramer, exercise science senior, is a part of the organization and is the music coordinator for the Dragons Entertainment Group. Kramer was in charge of organizing the event and making sure men are further educated about the prevalence and prevention of sexual abuse toward women.

Men and women walked, some even chose to run, 14 laps around the second floor of the CMU in order to reach a mile. All donations went toward the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in Fargo.

After the walk was completed, the event moved to the ballroom for presentations from Kramer, Boyle and an NDSU student who has been affected by sexual assault.

“With what I’ve seen the last four years take place on this campus, it brings me to tears at times,” Boyle said during her opening remarks at the presentation. “For the fact, this is unheard of to bring fraternity brothers, sorority sisters, athletes together to fight against something that’s happening every two minutes in the United States.”

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is an opportunity for all college campuses and organizations to participate. Many Greek organizations from NDSU and MSUM were present for the event. Cody Meyer, political science and legal studies senior and president of Kappa Sigma fraternity at MSUM, says this was his organization’s second year participating.

“I absolutely love this event,” Meyer said. “It does so much good because it raises a lot of money and raises a lot of awareness.”

Although sexual assault is a serious issue, watching men walking in high heels adds a humbling and humorous experience to the awareness event. Women walked side by side with male participants, but some of the men’s struggles were evident as they tripped and stumbled.

“It’s harder than it looks,” said Kyle Sarpong, history economics freshman. “I have a lot respect for women, and I admire what they do every day.”

“I don’t know how my mom walks in heels every day and all day,” said Shelby Oakley, exercise science sophomore. “I think the highest thing I have is a soccer cleat.”

Kramer challenged each participant to take something they’ve learned during the event and share their knowledge with someone in order to make MSUM and it’s surrounding communities a better and safer place.

“As a man, brother, son, teammate and significant other, I appreciate you coming and standing with me on these issues,” Kramer said. “I hope that we can stand together against rape, sexual assault and gender violence.”

An advocate from the Red River Men’s Action Network and an advocate from Someplace Safe in Fergus Falls also shared ways to prevent sexual assault and abuse.

“If we want to stop these things, we need to stop the individuals that are raping,” Boyle said. “They’re the ones that are committing the crimes. They’re the ones that are harming somebody and traumatizing somebody for life.”

The statistics that one in three women and one in six men will be directly affected by sexual violence within our communities is startling. Events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes bring people together to make a difference.

The Gamma Phi sorority won the golden shoe award for having the most people in attendance as an organization. MSUM won the gold shoe award for raising the most money as a campus, with a total of $148.29.

“I personally and professionally feel impressed that the Extraordinary Gentlemen group and MSUM and the Dragon Entertainment Group has decided to bring awareness to the event and issues,” Boyle said. “It says a lot about students and their willingness to make a difference.”

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