In an effort to raise money for the Shafer Center for Crisis Intervention, the Sexual Assault Prevention Ambassadors (SAPA), along with the Interfraternity Council (IFC) Executive Board, will be holding a virtual “Walk A Mile in Her Shoes” event on Thursday, April 15, and Friday, April 16 on Zoom.
Though everyone is encouraged to attend the event, Walk A Mile was initially designed for cisgender men to both literally and figurtively put themselves in women’s shoes. The event is design to bring awareness to sexism and sexual violence on college campuses, as “You can’t understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
SAPA President Bella Brocato is thrilled that IFC is partnering with SAPA for such an important cause.
“Men play a huge role in the fight against rape culture and sexual violence, especially on a college campus, and I’m proud of the IFC leaders for taking the initiative to involve all of the IFC chapters in this event’s mission,” said Brocato.
The founder of SAPA, Selma Newbill, explained the significance of an event like Walk A Mile.
“I think that this event also gives people that may not normally concern themselves with this issue the opportunity to connect with this mission in a way that goes beyond reposting something on Instagram or liking an image,” said Newbill.
A variety of well-educated panelists will discuss and answer questions about Walk A Mile throughout the Zoom events. In particular, they will explain how this event is important for the campus, how SAPA is raising money for the Shafer Center and how people on campus can get involved after the talks are over.
John Klee, a junior Instrumental Music Education major, hopes that Walk A Mile will help stimulate discussions about sexual assault on campus. As a white, cisgender and heterosexual man, Klee recognizes that it is important to talk more openly about sexual assault prevention, especially for people who share the same priviledges he does.
“This has the opportunity to open many eyes to how we can support and protect others in a more positive and helpful manner,” said Klee.
Since Walk A Mile will be held virtually this year due to COVID-19, participants will submit a video of them walking in heels. If they do not own heels, participants can also walk in teal, which symbolizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Participants are encouraged to make the video as creative as they would like. In order to keep in line with COVID-19 guidelines, though, they must have no more than seven people per video, film outside and wear their masks above the nose and mouth.
The use of heels for Walk A Mile in particular is a heavily symbolic one, which means different things to different people. Newbill believes the heels represent struggle.
“Most people who have worn heels know that they are not the most comfortable shoes to wear. They often leave blisters around your feet, rub the skin off your heels, pinch your toes, and leave your legs feeling sore after wearing them for a while. However, people, especially women, still wear them because they make us look more dressed up, more feminine, and more beautiful even though they can be incredibly painful,” Newbill said. “Taking that into account, to me, the heels represent struggle: the struggle of being a constant object of desire, the struggle of needing to look beautiful to be acceptable to the public eye, the struggle of shrinking yourself down to fit into the mold society has set in place for us.”
Klee, meanwhile, said that he believes heels symbolize the strength of sexual assault survivors.
“In a normal event, we would actually walk a mile on campus in heels to show our support of victims and advocates for sexual assault prevention, but even as a symbol, the heels show to me that, regardless of the difficulties, victims are strong and will push through any adversity that comes their way,” said Klee.
“The fact that this will become an annual event [for Southern Miss] will be huge for our campus culture and for involving people of all identities to unite under the same cause. I’m looking forward to the impact that Walk A Mile In Her Shoes [will] have for years to come and how future leaders in SAPA and IFC [will] build upon the legacies we’ve left behind,” said Brocato.
To see the list of panelists, get the Zoom link and find other information about Walk A Mile, you can check the SAPA Instagram page @usm.sapa. Anyone who would like to participate in Walk A Mile must register for the event by filling out a registration form and pay a small registration fee that will later be donated to the Shafer Center. People can register at this link: https://sapaifcusm.aidaform.com/walk-a-mile-registration-form.
If you would like to donate to the Shafer Center but are unable to make it to the event, SAPA is currently accepting donations through their Venmo, @SAPA_USM. There will also be tables set up in the R.C. Cook Union in front of SAPA’s “What Were You Wearing” gallery on Thursday and Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donors are encouraged to come in person so that they can see the “What Were You Wearing” gallery, as well as receive a Walk A Mile button or teal ribbon if they are donating $2 or more.