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Men invited to walk a mile in women’s shoes

Wednesday, 20 April 2011 - 1:28pm
By Peggy Revell

Local men are being asked to slip on a pair of red four-inch high heels later this month—then walk a mile—to stand up against rape, sexual assault, and gender violence.
It’s all part of the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event slated for Thursday, April 28 from 4-6 p.m. at the Backus Community Center over in International Falls.
The idea behind the event comes from the adage, “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,” explained LeeAnn Meer, director of Falls-based “Friends Against Abuse,” which is organizing the event locally.
“We need men to stand with us,” Meer stressed about having the event (where the red shoes are provided), which aims to help men understand and appreciate women’s experiences and perspectives—all while educating and raising awareness about violence against women.
The fight to end woman abuse began in the 1960s, with legislation finally coming into place in the 1980s, noted.
Over the decades, it’s been primarily women fighting this fight. Meanwhile, 90 percent of domestic violence cases involve men hurting women, she said.
But the majority of men are good people, added Meer, which is why they need to step up and “fight this battle side by side with us.”
“We’re inviting the community to join us in bringing about change in something that is a very, very negative impact on our society,” she remarked, noting that in Koochiching County, they’re spending almost a million dollars a year due to domestic violence.
“It’s a huge problem everywhere,” Meer stressed.
“So if we can affect change by doing an event like this and bringing people out, they can be part of that change and we’ll just have a healthier community because of it,” she reasoned.
Organizers are aiming to make it a binational event, with both Canadians and Americans coming out.
“This is something that knows no borders, knows no lines, no race, no culture—nothing,” Meer argued.
“So let’s do this on both sides and bring awareness to both sides of the river.”
“This isn’t a Canadian issue, it’s not an American issue—it’s an international issue,” agreed Peggy Loyie, with the Rainy River District Victims Services Program.
She lauded Meer and the “Friends Against Abuse” for doing the “awesome” work they do, and working to include people from both sides of the border.
“I think it’s an amazing idea and I wish that we could get more involvement from this side of the border,” said Loyie, who is working to rally support and participants here.
“Historically, we call it gender-based because it is about male violence, male perpetuated on females,” added Loyie.
“So I think it’s really important that men participate—and they bring a lot of attention to it that way, by participating.”
Loyie is hoping that organizations (such as the local OPP and Treaty #3 Police) and professions, many who are “immersed” in dealing with domestic violence issues, can come out for the afternoon and participate.
“The reason I think it’s an amazing idea is because it brings men into the middle of bringing attention to the gender violence, sexual assault, [and] domestic violence,” she noted.
“It’s men participating in that,” she stressed. “It’s men putting themselves out there, and the community comes out, and the community is witness to the men participating in something that just may seem so out of their own character for them to do.
“I give them a lot of credit. I think they’re extremely brave men to do that,” Loyie added.
The first time the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event in International Falls took place was back in 2009. Despite the wet weather, 120 people came out to show their support—from firefighters and police to the Falls High School leadership.
“[That] kind of surprised us, but that’s why we’re bringing it back because the community requested it,” Meer remarked.
“So now it’s even a bigger thing,” she said. “More people are aware of it, more people are joining in.”
While organizers want men to lead the walk, women are welcome to be involved, too, Meer stressed, adding they hope to get community groups and organizations out to the walk with their banners to show support.
The event also is a bit of a fundraiser. Meer said they have groups to pre-pose for pictures in their shoes and then a calendar, including facts and figures on each page about domestic violence and sexual assault, is put together.
“So it’s truly education and awareness, but it turns into a bit of a fundraiser, as well,” she explained.
“It starts the conversation, which is the whole purpose about what we’re trying to do here: to get people talking about this and then we can do something about it.
“If people don’t talk about it, don’t even know about it going on, nothing changes,” Meer reasoned.

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