A Walk in Their Shoes supports survivors of sexual assault

AE51DB0B-1538-4C5C-B4AD-0FBC49E5B246By Nicole Noce

Elm Staff Writer

On Sunday, some male Washington College students could be spotted teetering through town in red high heels for Alpha Chi Omega’s A Walk in Their Shoes fundraiser.

Alpha Chi Omega’s philanthropy is Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention. The event is help annually in April to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“Through this event we hope to raise awareness for sexual assault and educate the community on how to be advocates for survivors,” said Alpha Chi Omega Philanthropy Chair junior Despina Thomas.

As participants checked into the event, they were invited to borrow a pair of red heels for the mile-long walk.

“Inviting participants to wear heels is a light-hearted way to get people involved and start the important and serious conversation about ending sexual assault,” senior sister Jennifer Walls said.

The sorority supplies red heels in larger sizes for male participants who do not have their own heels to wear during the event.

“Heels of course are optional but it always means something when a guy makes that effort to put them on and maybe gain an understanding of how women in that situation feel,” freshman sister Julia Fuchs said.

Senior Andrew Darlington, one of the men who decided to wear heels, said, “I feel like a lot of women feel obligated to wear these and I feel that by wearing them I would kind of empathize a little bit. And I’ve always kind of been curious how painful it is, because I hear from a lot of people who wear them how bad it is.”

Throughout the walk, several of the men struggled to balance on the cobblestone pathways of campus and the cracked pavement of local streets. By the end of the walk, some of the shoes were in poor shape from losing heels or falling apart at the toes.

“Wearing high heels makes it more challenging to move forward and therefore complete the walk which represents challenges that survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence face,” Thomas said.

According to multiple Alpha Chi Omega sisters, participants were encouraged to wear shoes they do not typically wear or feel comfortable in to represent being in another’s “shoes,” since only male participants are provided with heels.

The proceeds from the walk benefit local organizations, including the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence and For All Seasons. Both organizations offer support to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“The money of course is a huge help for these women, but the awareness this event raises is just as important. Domestic violence is an epidemic that hurts thousands of men and women every year. The more people who understand this and talk about it, the closer we will get to helping more people,” Fuchs said.

Leading up to the event, Alpha Chi Omega manned a table in Hodson Hall and wrote chalk advertisements on the Cater Walk to encourage participation in the event.

“It’s easy to push these issues aside and not talk about them or think that they couldn’t possibly effect people in your own lives, but sexual assault and relationship violence needs to be an open conversation where people can seek help and provide help to survivors in these situations. [This] is crucial especially on a college campus because men and women ages 18 to 25 are most at risk,” Walls said.

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