“Walk a Mile” marches against gendered violence

by Samantha Stark
starksa@mnstate.edu

More than one in three women in the United States will experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in her lifetime. On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape or physical violence by an intimate partner in the United States. From 1994 to 2010, about four out of five victims of domestic violence were female.
Sunday in the CMU, the old saying “You can’t understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” took a turn for the literal as men strapped on high-heeled shoes to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes and effects of men’s sexualized violence against women.
MSUM’s Dragon Entertainment Group joined the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center and Someplace Safe to host their fifth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.
The Group’s outreach coordinator Nik Newville said he organized the event to show victims of sexual assault the support and resources MSUM and the community has to offer.
“I have not personally been affected by sexual assault, but I do know people who have, and I have seen what it has done to people,” Newville said.
The Group brought the event back for its fifth year to continue relaying what they think is an important message.
“A lot of times as young adults we don’t even realize some of the things that can be said or done are actually sexual violence, and I think it’s important to learn the truth and be aware and share that message with others,” The Group’s executive director Alexa Dixson said.
Individuals from MSUM, NDSU and the FM area alike walked 14 laps around the second floor of the CMU in community-donated high heels to share that sentiment.
Computer information technology sophomore Nathan Iverson, walking as a member of Kappa Sigma, said, “I’m walking to show victims of such crimes that there are still good people behind them that are willing to help.”
Walk a Mile works to shed light on sexual violence by creating an  event that gets communities talking about something that in many contexts is difficult to discuss — gender relations and male sexual violence against women.
This year alone, two rapes on campus were reported within the first two months of the fall semester.
“With what has happened in the past, it has created a bad feeling at MSUM,” Newville said. “So I feel this will be a good next step.”
The Group hopes Walk a Mile inspired students to continue showing their support through the spring semester.
“I think this event usually has quite a large impact on people who attend,” Dixson said. “Honestly, we never really know who is in the audience and what they have been through.”
Community member Bret Armstrong brought his two daughters, 2-year-old Autumn and 4-year-old Aspen, to walk, and be carried, a mile in their princess heels.
“I’m here to stand against violence against women everywhere, especially for these two little girls,” he said. “I am especially here for them.”
The halls are crowded each year with more than 100 participants.
“I’ve attended the last two years, and it has been a great turnout,” Dixson said.
Each year, tri-college organizations  show their unified support at the event by walking as a group.
Mass communications junior Alycia Lape, walking as a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, said she came out for what she considers an important cause. “We have to bring awareness to victims of abuse because people tend to ignore it,” she said. “Respect is needed, and this is a step toward bringing that awareness.”
The majority of attendees were members of fraternities and sororities from MSUM and NDSU.
“I think that most of Greek life feels that there is a real negative connotation to Greek life, especially toward fraternities,” Newville said. “They want to dispel this negative connotation from movies that all they do is party, and they don’t want that stigma.”
MSUM’s Kappa Sigma fraternity and Gamma Phi Beta sorority both received a Golden Shoe Award for having the highest attendance among an individual organization. In addition, Kappa Sigma received a Golden Shoe Award for raising and donating the most money toward the event. Registration was free, but there was a suggested $10 donation, with all proceeds benefiting the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center.
This was Kappa Sigma’s fourth consecutive year attending and co-sponsoring the event.
“Everyone should feel safe, whether you are a girl or a guy, because it happens to everyone,” Kappa Sigma president David Houghton said. “I think this all comes back to equality, that everyone should be equal, if either you’re black, white, straight or gay, man or woman, you have the right to feel safe.”
Refreshments, a speaker presentation and other call-to-action events followed the walk. Guest speakers consisted of Someplace Safe’s regional youth advocate Jeanine Thompson, the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center’s executive director Christopher Johnson and Hendrix Health Center’s director of health and wellness Carol Grimm. The speakers provided students with general knowledge about sexual violence and actions they can take if they or a friend experiences it.
“I hope that students learn what sexual violence is,” Dixson said. “I hope they learn that it is not acceptable. I hope they learn to fight it and continue to raise awareness.”
The Group plans to host another Walk a Mile for their sixth consecutive year next spring.
For more information about Walk a Mile events, visit walkamileinhershoes.org.

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