The 2013 Walk a Mile in Her Shoes will take place at the YWCA of Hawaii Island Ululani Campus on Saturday. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and the walk beings at 8:30 a.m.
By MEGAN MOSELEY
Tribune-Herald staff writer
It takes a real man to walk a mile in a woman’s shoes.
That’s the concept behind the upcoming “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event hosted by YWCA Hawaii Island, where men looking to raise awareness about sexual assault and abuse will be sporting everything from high heels to brightly colored slippers come Saturday.
“Inspired by the saying, ‘You can’t understand a person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,’ we’re asking men to walk in women’s shoes to show their support to end violence against women and girls,” said Karen Hayashida, YWCA board president, in a press release.
“Every three hours, someone on Hawaii Island is sexually assaulted, which is unacceptable. The community must work together to create a safer, healthier place to live and work,” she said.
The event, which starts simultaneously at 7:30 a.m. in Hilo and Kona, is attempting to raise $25,000 for the YWCA’s Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) program. The program receives more than 1,000 calls per year and meets with more than 100 victims in crisis annually. They offer a wide range of support services including a 24-hour crisis line, counseling and support during a medical exam and legal process.
Organizers said that along with raising money for SASS, the lighthearted fundraiser helps to educate and inform the public on a not-so lighthearted topic.
Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. According to the U.S. Department of Justice website, that includes sexual activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape.
According to statistics provided by Kathleen McGilvray, chief executive officer at YWCA, nationally, one in six boys and one in four girls will experience sexual assault before the age of 18. It is estimated that 70 percent of victims do not come forward to report the alleged assault or rape, and in the state of Hawaii, one in seven women will be forcibly raped in their lifetimes.
Lorraine Davis, chief operating officer at the YWCA, said to her, sexual assault is like “a cancer of the soul.”
“One of the things we know is that if a person has been sexually assaulted and it goes untreated, then the cost to society is more than the person would pay if they have cancer or diabetes,” she said. “If it goes untreated, then they deal with depression, blaming, drug abuse, thoughts of suicide, and so the cost and effect of sexual assault is a high-dollar thing.”
But that’s something Davis says people don’t like to discuss.
“We don’t put enough emphasis on the issue because the second we start to talk about sexual assault, the eyes glaze over and people don’t want to talk about it because it’s uncomfortable,” she said.
McGilvray said that’s one of the purposes of the Walk a Mile event.
“It is another way to raise awareness surrounding sexual assault, rape, domestic violence and to let the community know that there is a support system,” she said.
Last year, the fundraiser brought in $21,000 for the SASS program, only $4,000 short of the projected goal. The event has grown in popularity over the years, starting with only four teams in 2009 and growing to approximately 29 teams in 2012.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. The one-mile march in Hilo begins at the YWCA Ululani Street campus and in West Hawaii at the Kona International Market.
For more information, or to volunteer or donate, visit www.ywcahawaiiisland.org.
If you or someone you know is in need of support, contact the 24-hour crisis line at (808) 935-0677.
Email Megan Mosekey at firstname.lastname@example.org.