Mile walk across campus brings awareness to sexual violence no matter the gender


Students walk down the Esplanade in women’s shoes on April 14, 2015. “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes,” raised awareness for sexual violence and rape.

Sabrina Scott

Tuesday afternoon, a large group of men wobbled down the Esplanade as they struggled to walk a mile in high heels to Kent State’s Fashion School from Risman Plaza.

The Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services (SRVSS) and the Kent State Women’s Center hosted the fifth annual “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” benefit walk to promote awareness about sexual violence.

This year, the name was changed it from “Her Shoes” to “Their Shoes” to make more gender-inclusive.

“We are just trying to make sure that everyone knows that gender-based violence doesn’t just happen to women but it happens to everyone,” said Jennifer O’Connell, SRVSS director and sexual assault response coordinator. “We still have men walking in women’s shoes, but the emphasis is that it is not just women who experience sexual assault, but that everyone can experience it, so we want to make sure that we are articulating that in our message.”

Senior marketing major and Delta Lambda Phi fraternity member Brian Wakely said he was excited when he heard about the change.

“I was really excited because not all violence is against women,” Wakely said. “There are men who are victims of domestic violence, and there are women who commit gender-violence. I was really excited that they were finally getting away from basically the sexist language.”

The event began with games in the Kiva to get participants excited for the walk.

Phil Rickaby, assistant track and cross country teams coach, facilitated the games as men did the limbo and hula-hooped in their heels to get them more adjusted to the higher altitude.

Rickaby asked some of the young women in the room to help show the men how to walk correctly in heels while he cracked jokes about their unsteady pace.

“It was great to see a lot of the fraternities and sororities getting involved and the athletic department getting involved and a lot of people from different corners of the university coming together as a whole and actually trying to bring light to this particular issue and understand that it is a concern that needs to be addressed,” Rickaby said. “It was great to see the amount of people come out.”

O’Connell said anyone can play a role in ending sexual violence and explained the theory of “green dots.”

“A ‘green dot’ is essentially each of our individual choices that any moment in time to do something to make our campus a safer place,” O’Connell said.

Incoming Undergraduate Student Government Executive Director Brian Cannon was a keynote speaker and said that he noticed a lot of Greek individuals in the room and asked them to ask their chapters to get “Green Dot” training that is offered through SRVSS.

“We are all bystanders,” Cannon, a junior entrepreneurship major, said. “Don’t be that person in the background watching something happen. Don’t be that person that just sits there and keeps thinking that it shouldn’t be happening. Stand up and speak out because we have to end campus sexual assault today and in the near future. It has to end.”

The walk started at 6 p.m. ended with refreshments and various awards given out such as “Best Walk” and “Ugliest Shoe.”

“It’s role models within our community who are saying that this is important and that we all need to play a role in this,” O’Connell said. “We all need to pay attention. We all need to think about how this issue will affect our community and what we can do to help prevent it.”

Contact Sabrina Scott at [email protected]