GSU hosts 4th annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event

Blakeley Bartee

The annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event will take place at the Russell Union rotunda at Georgia Southern University to raise sexual assault awareness on March 31 at 5 p.m.

The event, sponsored at GSU by the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), University Wellness Program, Health Services, the Multicultural Student Center, Fraternity & Sorority Life and Sexual Assault Student Educators (SASE), is an international program that aims to give men an opportunity to walk a mile in a woman’s shoes.

Participants who registered by Feb. 26 will march in a pair of 3-inch heels at Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, which will truly last less than a full mile, according to Suzanne Shurling, graduate assistant for SART and certified victim’s advocate. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Statesboro Regional Sexual Assault Center.

This year, the event’s theme is “Defining Consent,” according to Shurling, who hopes the shocking appearance of the march will help draw attention to the cause.

“When you see a bunch of boys, especially last year when we had half the football team there in their jerseys, and 70-year-old professors, and policemen in their uniforms, marching in heels—students are going to be like, ‘Why are you marching? What’s going on?’ We’re hoping to get the message out that way,” Shurling said.

Shurling said that local DJ Ryan Butts will perform, and food will be supplied from Buffalo Wild Wings and other local vendors.

The event drew approximately 200 participants last year, according to Carmen Gray, senior English major and president of SASE. Gray said that her favorite sexual assault awareness event at GSU is Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.

“I like Walk a Mile, just because it’s hilarious. Guys just don’t know, and they’re like, ‘I’m so sorry that y’all do this,’” Gray said.

While Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is more playful and lighthearted than most sexual assault awareness events, it represents an issue that, according to Jodi Caldwell, GSU counselor and chair of SART, affects everyone.

“I think that sexual violence continues to be one of the largest epidemics in our country, especially on our college campuses. In the last few years, it’s gained a lot of traction in terms of media attention,” Caldwell said. “Unfortunately, I think the cases that typically made it to the media are not necessarily representative of the vast majority of the sexual violence that occurs. I’ve always maintained that sexual violence impacts every single college student, whether we realize it or not.”

According to Shurling, some people hesitate to participate in the event, partly due to the difficulty of walking in high heels.

“[For the guys who say the walk is too long and they might hurt their ankles], I encourage them: well, first of all, that’s kind of the point. There are gendered violence differences in our country, and there are experiences that women are going have that men, in general, are not going to be able to understand,” Shurling said. “Even though some victims are men, it’s still a much smaller percentage compared to women. One of the points is learning, metaphorically, the walk that a woman has to go through—the pain, the struggle that we have to go through.”

Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/georgiasouthern.