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Wednesday, September 28,2011

Men wear pretty shoes for good cause

By Bentley Weisel
Photo Credits: Photo provided by The Ohio University Women's Center.
Photo Caption: Participants in the Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event stand in heels before the start of the event outside Baker Center in October, 2009.

When a person thinks high-heeled shoes, the idea of men and walking a mile would normally not cross one's mind. However, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes combines these asymmetrical concepts to raise awareness and work to prevent sexual assault and violence against women.

"This is a men's march, but the entire community and nation are in support of what we are walking for," said event organizer Thomas Raabe, an Ohio University senior.

The annual event takes place this Saturday at the upper side of OU's Baker Center with registration beginning at 11:30 a.m. and the march beginning at approximately 12:30 p.m. Prior to the walk, speakers will try to put the purpose of the event into perspective for the participants.

"This is my third year participating in the event," said Raabe. "My understanding and appreciation for being proactive against this issue have grown since I started doing it. I wanted to be on the front lines and move against what's happening."

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes has been in the making since week one of fall quarter and has taken a collaborative team to make it happen.

"This has become my passion," Raabe said. "I am very optimistic about the turnout, and the feedback has been phenomenal."

This is the 10th anniversary of the creation of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. It was originated in California by activist Frank Bard, and has evolved into a nationally known event that takes place all over the country.

"He (Bard) was tired of men being on the sidelines of an issue they can control, and he was tired of women being the only ones pushing this issue," Raabe said. "So, he created this event where men could be proactive against sexual assault and violence toward women."

This will be the fourth year OU has held the event, which is sponsored by the Women's Center. The march starts in Baker, continues down Court Street and through town, ending at Bobcat Student Park for a event before OU's game with Kent State Saturday afternoon.

The theory behind Bard's idea was that a person cannot fully understand another person's situation until they put themselves in that person's shoes, according to Raabe.

"It's just a fun way to get the entire community involved, while talking about and dealing with a serious issue," he said. "When the heels come off, the movement continues."

Though the march distance only seems like a mile that most might normally walk on a Saturday in Athens, it's more than that. This march is a movement toward addressing the issue of violence against women.

"I feel like we can change the way things are," said Raabe. "It starts with everyday conversation between people that degrade women and devalue (the impacts of) sexual assault and violence. Someone needs to step in and say something."

Though men will be the ones marching, women are a part of the event, expressing their support and gratitude for this proactive movement.

"The support from the women in our community and on campus is always awesome," said Raabe. "They have become our sideline crew that cheer us on and help us keep going. They are the reason we do this."

The 120 pairs of shoes that have been accumulated since the event started are still not enough. It has grown each year as more people have become aware, and they are always looking for more donated shoes from women with bigger feet.

"We have gotten and received so many shoes from women, flea markets and thrift stores, but we still need more," said Raabe.

The event is being sponsored by local businesses Quiznos and Goodfellas. There will be food provided, but donations are accepted and encouraged. Additionally, T-shirts will be sold for $8, and all of the proceeds from the event will go to the My Sister's Place battered women shelter in Athens. Additionally, the event will be acknowledged at the football game after the march.

"I am really looking forward to the turnout this year," said Raabe. "I cannot wait to be elbow to elbow with other men that are thinking the same thing as me: we want to stop sexual assault and violence against women now."


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