Walk a Mile in Her Shoes
New event raises awareness through discomfort
By Simon McCormack
New Mexico men working to end sexual violence have never looked so hot.
That's because 100 sassy red high heels will be provided for the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Men's March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence this Sunday, Oct. 14. The event is sponsored by the Middle Rio Grande Young Women's Christian Association, the City of Albuquerque and Mayor Martin Chavez. Men of all ages manly enough to strut their stuff for a good cause are encouraged to march.
“This event allows men to truly participate and be at the forefront of the effort to raise awareness about sexual violence,” says Bianca Ortiz Wertheim, the mayor's legislative coordinator. “It raises awareness in an interesting way that might be able to attract a lot more attention to the issue.”
Participants, who don't have to wear the heels if they prefer, will walk along Girard at Johnson Field to Lomas and then back again, bringing their total traveling distance to almost exactly a mile. Participation fees will go to the Middle Rio Grande YWCA.
This is the first time the nationally recognized event, which started in 2001, will take place in New Mexico, and Wertheim hopes it can unify New Mexicans to fight for a common cause.
“Knowing that both men and women will walk away with the knowledge that sexual violence not only happens but, more importantly, that they can do something about it is a great part of the event," says Wertheim. "When you have a community coming together to march on an issue as important as this, you accomplish a lot.”
Inspiration for the event in New Mexico was partially drawn from the Oct. 4, 2006, attack against Paige McKenzie, former press secretary for New Mexico politician John Dendahl. McKenzie is an honorary chairperson of the march.
“It's events like what happened to Paige that help us realize how serious this problem really is,” says Roxanne Rivera-Wiest, Middle Rio Grande YWCA development director. “Our mission at the YWCA is to empower women and this march is a part of that.”
As the only YWCA in the state, Rivera-Wiest said her organization is “the little engine that could in New Mexico,” serving nearly 100,000 women and their families over the last year.
“Say a woman is coming out of an abusive relationship,” River-Wiest says. “We'll help her with clothing, housing and training to get back into the workforce. People don't always think about those things, they think about the immediate medical needs--which are, of course, important, and we can help with that as well--but after that comes reality. How are they going to support their kids? How are they going to find another job? Those are the very real things we help them with.”
According to River-Wiest, one in three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime and one in six boys are sexually assaulted before they turn 18.
“One thing people might not realize about sexual violence is that a lot of it happens within a marriage,” Rivera-Wiest says. “It's right up there with cancer and heart disease as one of the leading killers of women.”
Those interested in participating in the march should call 254-9922 ext. 117 or sign up on the day of the event at the southeast corner of Johnson Field by 9:30 a.m. The march commences at 10 a.m.
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