Walk a Mile in Her Shoes raises awareness

Participants met at Risman Plaza on Tuesday, Apr. 16 to march against sexual violence. Walk a Mile in Her shoes is a nationwide event where men walk a mile in high heels to experience what it’s like to be a woman.

Amanda Knauer

“It’s not just a women’s issue, it’s an everyone’s issue.”

Jennie O’Connell, Sexual Assault Response Team coordinator at Kent State University’s Women’s Center, sees violence against women as a problem that needs to be addressed by everyone, which is why she helped coordinate the 3rd annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event Tuesday.

The international event is a fun and upbeat way to bring attention to the issue. Moe than 400 students participated in the walk around campus, including Kent State sororities, fraternities and athletics teams.

The idea of the event was to get the men who participated to walk around in women’s shoes for a mile, while the women were able to comfortably walk in sneakers. Some complaints about painful blisters and sore ankles came from the crowd of men as they strapped on their heels and boots. Dancing, limbo and hula-hoops were available prior to the walk to get the men used to their new footwear.

“The reason men walk in high heels is to symbolize the daily walk of women. Women are continually having to be extra vigilant and aware of their surrounding when they are walking,” O’Connell said. “They are often nervous, uncomfortable or scared going from one place to another, especially at night. For one mile, men are asked to walk in high-heeled shoes to get a feel for being uncomfortable walking.”

The course started outside of the Student Center and headed toward the residence halls. It ended at the Women’s Center, where awards were given and door prizes were distributed. Awards included the highest heel and the ugliest shoe.

Kayla DePew, sophomore community health education major, participated in the event with her boyfriend, Adrian Wakeen.

“I’ve been taking part in all the different women’s events for sexual assault awareness month put on by the Women’s Center, so of course I made my boyfriend strap on a pair of heels and come out with me,” DePew said.

Junior digital science majors Coury Richards and Amanda Heitic also participated in the event. They were sitting in the Student Center when they saw the crowd of people and decided to join in. Richards was wearing a pair of heels for the walk.

“It was uncomfortable at first,” Richards said. “I’m a little off balance, but I’m getting there. I wouldn’t want to do this all day, that’s for sure.”

To energize the crowd before the walk, new Kent State head football coach Paul Haynes spoke. Haynes was also wearing heeled shoes.

“If anyone knows anything about me, I do have a wife, [and] I do have two daughters. So it’s very, very important to me,” Haynes said to the crowd. “It is a very, very serious thing that we take with high importance. We have to do something about it. We have to take a stand. We have to be harsh about it, and true about it and real about it. Does everybody understand that?”

O’Connell stressed that it is important for students to realize what they can do to help end violence against women.

“It could be as simple as, when someone makes a joke or makes a comment about a woman, tell them, ‘Hey, that’s not okay,’ or ‘I don’t appreciate those kind of comments,’” O’Connell said. “Or, if someone comes to you and tells you that they were assaulted the night before, that you can provide them support in a way that doesn’t victimize them, doesn’t blame them for what happened and makes them feel like they can go to someone and get help.”

O’Connell said statistics show that women on college campuses are at a higher risk of being sexually assaulted.

“It’s an issue that impacts Kent State as it does all campuses around the country,” O’Connell said. “So raising that awareness here is just as important as anywhere.”

Contact Amanda Knauer at [email protected].