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Men don heels, walk in solidarity with victims of assault

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About 70 men marched in high heels in protest of sexual assault on Saturday, one week after the alleged rape on Court Street that drew international headlines.

“Making a commitment to end violence against women is more than just spending a Saturday morning with your friends walking a mile in women’s shoes,” said Dr. Susanne Dietzel, director of the Ohio University Women’s Center, which has organized the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march for six years now.

She asked men to examine their own beliefs about violence against women and to “call other men on their sexist behavior.” 

In a study published in the Journal of American College Health in 2009, one-fifth of undergraduate women experienced attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college. 

“I am hoping that many of you will use the energy created here today … to be true allies to women and to all victims of sexual violence,” Dietzel said, speaking to a crowd of about 100 people before the walk. 

The week before, students created a stir on social media when a video and pictures of an alleged rape circulated on social media. The story was picked up by media outlets across the country and internationally. 

“Bystander intervention … is something we need on our campus right now so that people, when they see an assault happening or when they see disrespectful behavior happening, know how to take action rather than take pictures,” Dietzel said.

In addition to a bystander intervention group, Dietzel said that the Women’s Center is designing programming about masculinity, which all walk participants will receive information about through email.

About a dozen student senators attended the march, including Student Senate President Nick Southall, who was criticized on social media for a “slut-shaming” comment he tweeted in September. As of Saturday, the Student Senate Committee on Conduct and Discipline was still reviewing a request that Southall step down from his position. At the last Senate meeting on Wednesday, senior Bri Adamson and other students called for Southall to resign because of the tweet and “other inappropriate actions.” 

Senate plans on holding open meetings to discuss possible responses to sexual assault on campus, Vice President Anna Morton said. She said that Senate will also “be more proactive on social media.” 

About 20 Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) men also walked in heels, chanting “Blame the system, not the victim” and “Hey mister, get your hands off my sister.” 

“Coming out here shows a different side of soldiers. We actually care and are supportive,” said Nick Concilla, an Army ROTC freshman.

The military also recently attracted media attention for the amount of sexual assault in its ranks. A Pentagon survey estimated that 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted in 2012, according to news reports. 

“We are the future officer core of the army,” said Concilla, who was marching in heels for the first time. “Getting involved now is important.” 

Those who have experienced sexual assault may contact the Survivor Advocacy Program at 44 University Terrace or Counseling and Psychological Services at Hudson Health Center for support and guidance.

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