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OU Men Don Heels to Protest Sexual Assault

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Dozens of men will literally put themselves in women’s shoes this Saturday by donning high heels and marching down Court St. for the fifth anniversary of Ohio University’s Walk a Mile in her Shoes.

Walk a Mile in her Shoes is an international march first proposed in 2001 by Frank Baird.  At the behest of the OU Women’s Center, located on the fifth floor of Baker Center, OU began holding Walk a Mile in 2007 as a way for men to protest rape, sexual assault and gender-based violence.

“[Walk a Mile] is one of the few times of the year that men can take participatory, public action against our collegiate rape culture,” said supporter Jess Miller.

Men, as part of the problem, must “take a more assertive role” in putting an end to sexual and gender-based violence, said organizer Rich Freeman, who has worked at a rape crisis center in Cleveland.

“We think it’s critical that men show their support and solidarity in ending the violence against women,” said Dr. Susanne Dietzel, director of the Women’s Center. “We want men to take the lead for [Walk a Mile].”

Registration begins Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at the Women’s Center, and the march begins at 12:15 p.m. outside Baker.  Walk a Mile organizers are hoping for a large turnout for the fifth anniversary of the walk.

“Last year there were about 125 men who participated, and this year we want to … max that,” said Freeman.

While men strut down Court St., women will stand on the sidelines in support, holding signs with slogans like “Hey, mister, get your hand off my sister” and “Real men don’t rape.”

According to the Women’s Center website, one in six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and college age women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted.

The ramifications of sexual and gender-based violence don’t stop with the victim, said Freeman.  “This reflects on the whole community.”

According to the 2012 Clery Report, 11 sex offenses were reported at OU in 2011.  However, the Women’s Center says that 60 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.

“[Many people] know people who have been assaulted and haven’t reported it.  To that I reply, ‘This is why we walk,’” said Freeman. “Granted the walk is just a demonstration. It’s just to raise awareness, but it’s better than silence… Making room for discussion is part of the solution.”

Freeman advised marchers to arrive at the Women’s Center early on Saturday in order to have a “better selection” of heels.

“I never knew how it felt to walk in high heels, and I commend every girl who’s ever walked in high heels. My feet still hurt just thinking about it,” said Tyler Goetz, an organizer of the walk. “This is a great event, and I really hope that everybody makes an attempt to come… and support this event.”

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