It takes a real man to walk a mile in a woman’s shoes.
That’s the concept behind “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” an event hosted by YWCA Hawaii Island where men sport everything from high heels to brightly colored slippers to raise awareness about sexual assault and abuse.
“Every three hours, someone on Hawaii Island is sexually assaulted, which is unacceptable,” said Karen Hayashida, YWCA board president, in a press release. “The community must work together to create a safer, healthier place to live and work.”
Organizers of the event, which starts at 7:30 a.m. Saturday both in Kailua-Kona and Hilo, are attempting to raise $25,000 for the YWCA’s Sexual Assault Support Services program. The program receives more than 1,000 calls per year and meets with more than 100 victims in crisis annually. It offers a range of support services including a 24-hour crisis line, counseling and support during a medical exam and legal process.
Along with raising money for SASS, the lighthearted fundraiser is meant to educate and inform the public about a serious 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 her lifetime.
Lorraine Davis, chief operating officer at the YWCA, said sexual assault, to her, 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 said 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 1-mile march starts from the Kona International Market in Kailua-Kona and at the YWCA Ululani Street campus in Hilo. For more information or to volunteer or donate, visit ywcahawaiiisland.org.
If you or someone you know is in need of support, contact the 24-hour crisis line at 935-0677.
Email Megan Mosekey at firstname.lastname@example.org.