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Walk a Mile in Her Shoes offers UB a new perspective

Buffalo men don heels to raise awareness about gender violence and sexual abuse

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When Aaron Maracle participated in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraising event for the first time nine years ago, it took place on campus and only covered about half a mile.

It started in the Flag room in the Student Union, moved toward Capen, around the promenade and back the same way.

This year, the walk took place downtown and hundreds of participants took the mile-long trek. Men wore various types of heels to raise awareness about sexual assault and gender violence. Participants walked from the Crisis Services center on Main Street up Hertel Avenue, to Starin Avenue and back.

“When I first did the walk there were only about 15 or 20 other people, mostly women, doing it with me,” said Maracle, the assistant director of Health Education at Sub Board I Inc. and a walk committee member. “Now that we have the walk downtown, it’s more accessible to the local population. It becomes less of a school event and more of a community event.”

The main goal of the event is to start the conversation about gender violence and sexual assault in the community. The heels are intended to raise questions, giving participants an opportunity to discuss sexualized violence in an open manner and to educate those around them.

The walk originated in 2001 at Strength United in California. What began as a way to fundraise for local rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters has become a worldwide event to help fight gender violence and sexual assault.

In addition to community members, UB groups like the UB Dance Team, the ROTC club and the Black Student Union (BSU) attended the walk to help raise awareness.

Joelle Turek, a senior health and human services major and member of the UB Dance Team, has been participating in the event for the past four years.

“[The team] loves that it’s a community event because it’s nice to connect with people outside of UB,” Turek said. “We try to be the biggest group out here and really encourage people on the team to participate. This is the first year I’m actually wearing heels, and I’m really excited to walk.”

Her team members donned shiny black sneakers and carried their pompoms, cheering and walking alongside the men in heels.

For BSU, it was about keeping the message alive year round – not just when there are events.

“We had an event back in October where we discussed sexual violence,” said Auriel Anderson, a senior communication and sociology major. “But we feel like it should be a year long thing. We think it should be talked about more often than when we decide to hold an event for it.”

The walk took under an hour, as the group moved through the Buffalo streets swiftly. Afterward the men ripped off their shoes, grateful to only wear the heels for a short time.

For Maracle, the temporary pain is worth the lasting effects.

“People don’t talk about good sexual experiences, so they really don’t talk about the bad ones [either],” Maracle said. “The walk helps get the conversation started. Someone is bound to ask ‘Hey, why are you wearing heels?’ and it’s easy to explain the cause.”

The event aims to raise awareness about an issue most are too afraid to speak about so the discussion about gender violence and sexual assault will not end when the walk is over.

Tori Roseman is the senior features editor and can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com


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