SYCAMORE – Most of the more than 100 people attending the Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event Saturday walked – or wobbled – 10 laps around the Kishwaukee YMCA track in high heels.
Mary Ellen Schaid, executive director for the domestic violence shelter and rape crisis center Safe Passage, said the number of attendees registered for the annual event tripled since the organization started hosting it for DeKalb County a couple of years ago. This year, nearly 100 people signed up ahead of time for the event.
“It’s growing, and that’s what we hope for,” Schaid said.
The nationwide event was meant for men to have a better understanding of what it’s like to literally walk a mile in a woman’s shoes to help raise awareness of sexual violence. But Schaid said the event is for everyone.
“We want to make changes,” she said. “The whole #MeToo movement – it’s all of us.”
Kiley Niemeyer, a recent Northern Illinois University graduate from Wasco, said he came to the event to support his girlfriend, who supports the work of Safe Passage. He said this type of cause is something he’s passionate about, as well.
Niemeyer said this was the first time he had ever worn high heels, and that it already hurt to stand in them for a few minutes before the mile-long walk started.
“It’s definitely a realistic way to see the struggles that women face on a daily basis,” Niemeyer said.
Jerry Lane, a partner-abuse interventionist at Safe Passage, said he primarily attempts to re-educate offenders of domestic violence who are ordered to attend a court-mandated program. Lane said he walked in high heels during the event because he thinks men need to step up and take responsibility for sexual assault and harassment in society.
Lane said it’s considered a women’s issue, because most victims are women, but he said he wants to help normalize men speaking up about similar issues as victims. He said he also is close with several people in his life who are victims of sexual assault.
“It adds to my concern of the issue,” Lane said.
He said, however, that the number of people disclosing and speaking out is increasing.
Schaid said she wanted to emphasize that sexual harassment and assault still is a huge and underreported problem. She said this type of community event is important to the overall conversation regarding sexual assault.
“It’s going to take all of us to make it stop,” Schaid said.
Event organizers said the after-party at Fatty’s was new this year, and that a portion of drink sales during the event benefited Safe Passage.