Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: men stand tall for women’s rights

UMKC men marched the streets of campus in high heels Thursday evening in the annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event.

Created in 2001, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” is a non-profit organization created to raise awareness for rape, sexual assault and gender violence against women, as well as help men better acknowledge women in their everyday life experiences.

This blooming tradition of men walking an entire mile in women’s shoes has swiftly become a worldwide movement that raises millions of dollars each year.

Event organizer and Women’s Center Director Brenda Betham believes it’s crucial for UMKC to host this event.

“It’s our responsibility to end sexual violence,” Betham said. “It’s on us to be active bystanders and to intervene if we see something happening, and for men to talk to each other and interrupt disrespect for women that helps lead to sexual violence.”

Bethman described the event as “fun and light-hearted with a purpose.”

Freshman Trevor Calvert was a first-time participant at the event.

“I picked these heels mainly because one of the girls pointed out that they are going to be a pain to walk in, so I said, ‘whats a little pain, ya know?’” explained Calvert. “It’s kind of the reason why we’re here”.

Calvert decided to participate in the event because he felt it was his duty as a friend and bystander.  

“It’s my duty to not only be an advocate but to also support and be out there in the community actually doing something,” Calvert said.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest Nation Network (RAINN), women on college campuses today, typically ages 18-24, are three times more likely to be a victim of sexual assault than other women in the same age group.

UMKC has hosted the event since 2007 and seen over 1,000 participants, including the Women’s Center and the Violence Prevention and Response Program, who participate each year.

One individual, Keith Winterhalter, stood out from the rest by wearing what were likely the tallest heels in the crowd.

Standing about six inches taller than others, the ninth-year participant said he buys a pair of high feels specifically for the event every year. He later donates them to a safe home, Hope House or a shelter for battered and abused women.

“When I walk into the store, I look for something sassy,” Winterhalter said. “They’re not the most professional pair, but there’s nothing wrong with having a chance to feel good about yourself, and we all know women and men feel better if they look better.”

As the event progressed and the men prepared themselves for the mile-long hike, UMKC Chancellor Mauli C. Agrawal gave a few words of encouragement.

“In light of the recent events at the national level, I am reminded that raising awareness about issues of sexual assault and violence prevention is the work of the whole community,” Agrawal said. “We are called to hold each other accountable and to call out, and to stand up against those things we know are morally wrong. Tonight as you walk, I encourage each of you to think about what you can do and what we all can do as individuals to better our campus and our community.”

As the event came to a close, smiles and laughter were shared between all, confident knowing what they had done would make a difference.

“Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” not only raises awareness for the fight against sexual assault—it brings communities together, making them stronger and wiser with every step.

 

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