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Pumped for awareness: Davidson men walk mile in heels to bring attention to sexual, domestic violence

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

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    •  It is never your fault. No matter what choices you made, no one had a right to assault you. You are not to blame.

    •  You have a right to be believed.

    •  Help is available. Safe Alliance provides 24-hour hotline support and hospital accompaniment as well as victim advocacy and therapeutic counseling.

    •  It’s important to believe and support someone who says they’ve been raped or assaulted. Only 2 percent of rape allegations are false. It’s best to err on the side of believing the victim and leave the investigating to law enforcement.

    •  Rape is solely the fault of the perpetrator, not the victim.

    •  Never blame a victim for not fighting back. Their only job was to survive.

    •  Rape does not mean the victim said “No” to sexual contact; rape means the victim did not freely say “Yes.” True consent is clear and enthusiastic.



Except for the hairy legs, the men of Davidson College pulled off the red-stiletto look pretty well Sunday as they teetered toward Main Street in the name of domestic violence awareness.

“This is one of those issues that’s very difficult to talk about, and so it’s pushed to the side and not given the attention it deserves,” said sophomore Martel Campbell, 20, who participated in the event. “We wanted to do something interesting and unique that would get people talking.”

Roughly 50 men from Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and the greater college community marched one mile in the red stiletto heels to raise awareness about rape, sexual assault and gender-based violence.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and Safe Alliance – a social services agency that offers shelter, counseling, legal and advocacy services to victims of sexual and physical assault – co-sponsored the event.

Kappa Alpha Psi and Delta Sigma Theta have worked together to combat domestic violence for several months. Sunday’s event was supposed to be the culmination, sophomore Javier Robles, 19, said.

“We thought this would be a good event to kind of shock people and force them to take a closer look at the problem and realize that it is such a prevalent problem and there’s a lot we can do to help,” Robles said.

While trying on the stilettos for the first time on Sunday, many march participants joked with one another, saying “I feel like Beyoncé” and “This is going to be a long mile.”

‘An important cause’

Sophomore Jacob Luftglass wrestled with whether to wear black socks with his shoes.

“I’m not trying to get blisters on top of humiliation,” Luftglass told his friend.

Despite the possible threat to his dignity – not to mention an old toe injury – Luftglass said he was happy to participate.

“I’m going to tough it out for the women of the world,” he said. “I feel like this is an important cause to help out with.”

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network:

• Every 2 minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.

• One out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

• One in 33 American men has experienced an attempted or completed rape in his lifetime.

•  About two thirds of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

For some, issue hits home

“There is too much domestic violence and sexual assault, and it impacts all aspects of society,” Lucille Marciano, Safe Alliance region director for Lake Norman and Cabarrus County. “It impacts the rich and the poor ... and it’s on college campuses.”

Robles recalled visiting a family friend recently who was covered in bruises. Her boyfriend had beaten her after he found out she was trying to leave him.

“He bruised her up pretty bad. She had bruises on her neck and all over her body. Her face was really disfigured,” Robles said. “It was awkward for me because I didn’t know if I should bring it up or if it was my place to suggest help or ask what happened. All I could do was look in shock.”

Junior Avril Coley, a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, said she has seen the lasting impacts that violence can have on victims – especially when they don’t feel like they can say anything to anybody.

One of her friends was assaulted in her early teens, Coley said.

“She’s an amazing woman now, but it’s something that she carries with her every day,” Coley said. “What happened to her when she was younger, it was a huge moment for her. It’s something that is always going to stay with her.”

‘In awe of these students’

After Sunday’s walk, participants and onlookers gathered to listen to a speaker from Safe Alliance discuss the prevalence of domestic violence.

Marciano said she was impressed by the students’ efforts to eradicate domestic violence.

“They’re my heroes because they are so aware of the problems that plague our society, and they want to do something about it,” she said. “I’m totally in awe of these students because they’re taking the initiative to make a difference and they’re doing it now.”

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, part of the 501(c)(3) Venture Humanity, provided the red shoes – in sizes 9 to 14 – for the event.

While a $2,500 grant from the Bonner Community Fund helped purchase the shoes, any money raised through donations went toward Safe Alliance.

Arriero: 704-804-2637; Twitter: @earriero
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