Dawes Park on Sunday was full of ’80s songs, sunshine, and men in stilettos, but the upbeat’ Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ event had a very serious purpose.
The Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault (NWCASA) hosted the 1 mile walk around the park on October 3, with men wearing 4-inch red stilettos, to raise awareness of sexual violence.
Heels represent a symbol of gender bias. Although the NWCASA has said that not all women wear heels and heels are not gender specific, they said men wearing heels in a playful opening act can lead to important conversations about the truth of the matter. global and local sexual violence. For the men who participated, it also highlighted how difficult walking with heels can be.
NWCASA Deputy Director Rebecca Plascencia has co-hosted the event in Evanston for eight years alongside Evanston Police Officer Enjoli Daley.
“The event aims to link activism by taking this symbol of rape culture and the expectation that women wear heels,” Plascencia said. “It can start a constructive dialogue. “
All the money raised during the event is donated to NWCASA to support survivors of sexual violence.
Constable Daley said that as a female, survivor of sexual violence and a police officer, she has witnessed many incidents and that awareness can increase support for funding more resources.
“There has to be an understanding of sexual violence,” she said. “A lot of times people turn away from it, no one wants to talk about it, but it’s something that happens on a regular basis. There are people here who are struggling and we have to support them.”
There were clotheslines of T-shirts hanging between trees in the park with personal stories written on them by survivors of sexual violence. Plascencia said the NWCASA has more than 1,000 T-shirts in its offices, from events it hosts in schools across the region.
The clothesline project began in 1990 in Massachusetts. Plascencia described it as a way for survivors to be heard and “to leave their screams silent”.
She said it’s important to recognize that the T-shirt stories take place here, because no community is safe from sexual violence.
Evanston council member Peter Braithwaite and Mayor Daniel Biss were present at the event to show their support.
Braithwaite didn’t walk in heels, but Biss balanced all three laps in his stiletto heels but wasn’t quick enough as he was beaten by Raffaele Signa, a resident of Elmwood Park.
Signa, a student, said he learned of the event from a classmate’s social media post. He had never heard of it and decided to participate, and he had an advantage – it wasn’t the first time he had walked in heels.
Unaware that shoes were provided, Signa brought her own pair of black heels which were double the ones the other three participants wore. But it wasn’t about winning for Signa; like all participants, he wanted to introduce himself to those in his life affected by sexual violence.
“I know people in my life who have experienced sexual violence, and I thought that would be something I could do to show them my support,” he said.