By Abby Wargo
Student Life Editor
The scraping of red stilettos against the pavement echoed down the Cater Walk as Washington College students stepped into the shoes of victims of domestic violence.
On April 23, the sisters of Alpha Chi Omega and the brothers of Theta Chi partnered with the WC Prevention, Education, and Advocacy Center (PEAC) to sponsor the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.
This year’s event raised almost $1,500.
The walk began in Martha Washington Square with introductions by Rachel Boyle, director of PEAC, and sophomore Jennifer Walls, the main organizer.
“This is such an important event because it is an opportunity for our men to engage in a very important piece in helping to support women in their experiences, and both honoring Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and also any type of violence against women, and in general. This is very important to be a part of, and to be involved and engage in a greater cause,” Boyle said.
AXΩ’s philanthropy relates to domestic violence, and the walk was held in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which takes place in April.
“Alpha Chi is really behind this walk because domestic violence is our philanthropy, and nationwide all chapters support Sexual Assault Awareness Month…chapters all over the nation take part in events like this to educate members of the community on these issues,” Walls said.
Robin Sample, a 2005 WC graduate and domestic violence survivor from MCFV, shared her story with the crowd.
“It was 12 years ago that I left this campus, and I left it a totally different person from when I had arrived…I transformed from being a victim of domestic violence to becoming a survivor,” she said.
Sample described how becoming a student at WC at the age of 34 with two teenage children was both challenging and life-changing.
“I wasn’t a traditional student…my goal was for me to become a better person for my children and to overcome my obstacles. But what they didn’t know was that I woke up every day at 4 a.m. to go to a job for three hours to make less than minimum wage to support my children, and then drive an hour from Cambridge to come to school all day. The whole time I was [at school], I was trying to survive. What they didn’t know was that the night before, I was being beat, choked, even cut…there were a lot of things that happened to me between the time when I came home and when I got up in the morning.”
Sample recalls that she was never able to open up to anyone about her abuse while she was a student.
Gesturing toward the library terrace, she said, “Over there, there’s a bench where I spent all my time just sitting and—as funny as it may sound—watching the squirrels. I always said that if I were a squirrel, I wouldn’t have to worry about [being abused]. They’re so carefree, they can do what they want to do without anybody bothering them.”
From the time she got off of work at 5:30 a.m. until the time she arrived at WC at 8 a.m., she took the time to “transform” into a normal person and to “put on a mask” that concealed her abuse from the other students and from faculty.
“I covered up who I was, I came here, I put on a brave face, I studied as hard as I could, as hard as it was…I tried not to focus on coming home and worrying about how to stay alive and keep my children safe.”
Eventually, all of Sample’s perseverance paid off, and she graduated free from abuse. She found her passion for working with people involved with domestic violence. She an advocate, and currently works for Mid Shore Council on Family Violence (MCFV). In addition, she has written several books that discuss her experiences and provide guidance for current victims.
“Seeing what you all here are doing today to help overcome domestic violence gives my heart great pleasure and great pride to see that someone is paying attention to these issues…it’s not something that people like to talk about, and it’s not something that’s easy to talk about.”
After her speech, students clad in bright purple shirts and men in red heels walked a mile around campus in solidarity. Onlookers called out words of encouragement to the walkers, and cars honked as they drove by.
The walk ended back at Martha Washington Square, where pizza was served and participants could visit the booths run by various organizations that support domestic violence and learn more about what they do.
The event was heralded as a success.
Freshman AXΩ member Adrienne Chase said, “It was great to see a lot of Greek organizations supporting our cause. Everyone was able to have fun while still learning about an important issue.”
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is an international movement created by Frank Baird in 2001 to raise awareness and money for domestic violence and sexual assault. The event has men literally walk a mile wearing red women’s heels to demonstrate solidarity for women who are victims of sexualized violence. Funds raised by these events go to local rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and other programs that pertain to sexualized violence education, prevention, and remediation.
Participants could register in Hodson Hall at the Walk a Mile table or on the day of the event for $10. Donations were collected to help support local organizations such as For All Seasons, MCFV, and the Mary Kay Foundation, all of which had representatives in attendance.
Additionally, PEAC and Eastern Shore Psychological Services representatives had tables set up with information about the organization for attendants to peruse.
For more information on the event, visit www.walkamileinhershoes.org.