Walk a Mile in Her Shoes promotes discussion of sexual assault

Credit: Courtesy of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Credit: Courtesy of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

On Saturday, Oct. 8, Pittsburgh men will walk a mile in women’s shoes as they participate in the second annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes PGH.

According to the organization’s website, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is an international march that advocates to end rape, sexual assault, and gender violence. Participants in this movement wear high heels while walking for one mile as a way to raise awareness about the severity of these issues towards women. This event will take place in Pittsburgh at 5050 Liberty Avenue at 4:30 p.m. with a rally followed by the walk. The proceeds of this fundraiser will benefit the Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) organization.

“This walk really is so important to have in a society like ours,” the Chair of Walk a Mile PGH Camille Goleb said. “Our society still tends to, for whatever reason, focus on the actions of the victim rather than the actions of the attacker. Things like that are really unacceptable, and events like this bring the attention to where it needs to be, which is prevention, education and discussions about consent.”

Historically, a huge focus of this event has been to prevent sexual assault through the actions of men, instead of having women focus on preventing getting raped. Walk a Mile in Her Shoes was founded by Frank Baird in 2001 and initially started with just a few men trying to make a statement. Now, Baird’s idea is practiced worldwide and makes millions of dollars for numerous programs that help support victims of sexual assault.

The Pittsburgh chapter of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes was started by Goleb after she moved here over a year ago and was disappointed that there were no annual events to spread awareness about sexual assault and support its victims. Goleb said that the city’s overall reception of the walk has been very positive.

“The event itself is supposed to be a little light-hearted, so most of our participants have felt happy, if not a little blistered and sore, after the walk,” Goleb said. “I most enjoy the impact of the rally on all of the participants. We usually have a survivor speak at the rally, and have lots of organizations tabling and providing resources not only for survivors, but for the community as a whole.”

These organizations at the walk are representatives of the many resources Pittsburgh has for survivors of sexual assault, including the PAAR organization. The organizers of the walk decided to have the money raised go to PAAR because of their positive reputation regarding education and advocacy of victims of sexualized violence.

Another way the event is being personalized for Pittsburgh is that after the walk there will be music by several local artists from 7 p.m. until midnight. These performances will happen at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern and the Howlers. College students in the area can also get involved in this event.

“College students can get involved in this event right away,” Goleb said. “I highly encourage teams of Walkers to register. You can walk, wear a crazy outfit to unify your team, come to the rally, come to the concert, anything that you can.”

This walk is another way for college students to acknowledge the prevalence of sexual assault on campus. According to the website for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), “11.2 percent of all students [on college campuses] experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.” This includes both undergraduate and graduate students. The massive number of college students impacted by this is another reason why the walk is so important.

Both males and females can sign up for the walk, and as for the guys who have never walked in heels, Goleb says not to worry.

“For those that aren’t used to walking in heels, we’ll have a coach at the rally to show you the ropes,” Goleb said. “I can’t wait to see everyone’s strut.”