RUTLAND — Rutland County residents will “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®” in a unique fund- and awareness-raising event during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month to highlight domestic and sexual violence issues and benefit the Rutland County Women’s Network & Shelter.
“Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® is a playful way to raise awareness of the serious causes and effects of family violence,” said RCWNS Executive Director Avaloy Lanning, MSW. “We would like to invite you to join us as we Walk a Mile in the shoes of those women and men — our friends and neighbors — that have experienced domestic and sexual violence.”
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® asks men to literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes. It’s not easy walking in these shoes, but it’s fun and it gets the community to talk about something that’s really difficult to talk about: gender relations and men’s sexualized violence against women, states the national event website www.walkamileinhershoes.org.
On Thursday, Aug. 20, with a large crowd of supporters, sponsors and walkers on hand, Lanning, Green Mountain Power Vice President Steve Costello, and WJJR’s Terry Jaye announced plans for the Oct. 18 event and called on the community to support it. “Few issues strike at the heart of a community like domestic violence, so if wearing a pair of red stilettos will help raise funds and awareness, we’re ready to make a fashion statement,” Mayor Louras said.
The walk will be presented by GMP and WJJR, which also organize the Gift-of-Life Marathon, and will collaborate with RCWNS to organize, fundraise and promote it. Board member Regina Kohlhepp and volunteer Emme O’Rourke said GMP’s enthusiasm quickly led to a partnership. “All the key organizers of the GOLM will be working to make the walk a success,” Costello said. “As a community, we can play an important role by talking about the issue of domestic violence and addressing it together. Equally important, the walk will help ensure the financial strength of the RCWNS so it can provide critically needed service for victims and their children.”
Jaye began a public service campaign for the RCWNS even before today’s announcement about the walk. “This community has shown time and time again that it will stand together to do the right thing,” Jaye said. “We’ve seen it with the blood drive, food drives, after the Nor’icane and Irene, and we’ve built some amazing partnerships through those events. Now we’ll bring them to bear to combat domestic violence.”
On Sunday, Oct. 18, local sports teams and groups from local businesses, government, nonprofits and other organizations will participate in the event, which will include music, food and educational information about domestic violence in downtown Rutland.
Kohlhepp said she envisions Walk a Mile becoming an annual event and an investment in social change.
“We have been overwhelmed by the number of sponsors who have signed up and the depth of their support,” she said. “One day I will look back on this event and say it was the beginning of the end of domestic violence in Rutland County. Violence is learned. It can be unlearned.”
The RCWNS serves victims of domestic and sexual violence free of charge. Services include shelter, short-term counseling, legal advocacy, alcohol and drug abuse referrals, assistance finding permanent housing, and education.