April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Heartland Community College’s Council on Family Relations is holding its second annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes to encourage discussion on the issue.
The national conversation surrounding sexual assault and harassment has been especially loud in recent months in light of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. Organizers say the goal of the April 7 walk at Heartland is to change in the way people perceive and discuss sexual assault.
Anyone is encouraged to attend, learn and engage in discussion. Men are encouraged to wear high-heels during the walk to literally “walk a mile in her shoes.”
"We strive to bring family-friendly activities and awareness events to Heartland and the local community. We will have a little fun while educating people about some serious issues,” said Cristina Prestin-Latham, faculty advisor for the Council on Family Relations.
Amber Baer, president of the Council on Family Relations student organization, said they seek to stop sexual assault in all forms.
"When the organization was started, it was started specifically for sexual assault against women but now it’s kind of crossed its lines, especially at Heartland, we want to look at it against every person, no matter gender," said Baer.
Baer said victim-blaming, such as what a woman wears, is still a problem in society.
"Rape is wrong no matter how a woman dresses or where a woman is, or even on the men's side, rape is just wrong and you need consent," said Baer.
By having a man wear high heels, it brings a fun, eye-opening way to experience something a woman experiences. Walking around Heartland's campus in heels allows a unique way to start conversation about assault while emphasizing that rape is never the victim's fault.
"No means no and that's that,” said Baer. “I think a lot of people are beginning to realize that the need for this is greater than it was before—the need for consent education.
“We're hoping as a council, and as a community, to step up and let people know that their voices are heard, to let people know we care for them in whatever capacity that we can and that there are resources in the area, and nationally, that can and will help," added Baer.
Baer also said people sometimes feel shame when they are a victim of sexual assault. Many turn a blind eye to rape and open discussion and education can help eliminate a sense of shame.
The walk takes place April 7 at 1 p.m. on the Heartland Quad. The walk is open to all ages, free snacks and drinks will be provided and the organization will also hold a raffle.
In a separate event, YWCA McLean County will host its annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event April 7 at 11 a.m. in Uptown Normal on the circle. Registration is free but required.
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