University of Miami students, faculty and administrators gathered around the Rock and Foote Green on Thursday for the seventh annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, held by the counseling center’s Counseling Outreach Peer Education program (COPE). The event was created by a group of men in 2001 to bring attention to issues related to sexual violence against women and gives participants a chance to figuratively and literally “walk a mile in her shoes.”
One-inch red heels were provided for all participants, both men and women. Sabrina Xiao, a sophomore and outreach program chair of COPE, said the event was important not only to link students to the counseling center, but also to break stereotypes about sexual violence.
Although the majority of sexual violence is gender-based and against women, there are male victims of rape and sexual assault, as well. This is something Xiao said is important to recognize.
“We realize that rape happens to men too,” Xiao said.
COPE again partnered with the SafeSpace Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to empower, educate and advocate for victims of sexual and domestic violence. At the event, SafeSpace accepted donations for toiletries and COPE sold “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” T-shirts for $5.
The event kicked off with welcome remarks by Kim Martin, COPE coordinator at the Counseling Center, and an introduction to the SafeSpace Foundation by board member Alicia Consuegra. The keynote speaker for the evening was Neil Irvin, executive director of Men Can Stop Rape and a prominent figure in the field of sexual violence prevention.
While posing for pictures in his red heels, UM Housing and Residential Life employee Ross Logan said the walk was a small, yet powerful experience for him and many other participants.
“Men don’t know what women go through every single day,” Logan said.
Among the attendees and sponsors was the UM Police Department, who handed out the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, which is released each October and details the statistics of crime on campus.
UMPD Crime Prevention Officer John Gulla emphasized the importance of all students knowing about the resources available on campus.
“We don’t just want survivors of sexual violence looking for this information,” Gulla said, adding that everyone can and should be part of the solution by knowing how to help.
Gulla is a member of the President’s Campus Coalition on Sexual Violence Prevention and Education. The coalition is comprised of members of the student body, faculty and administration. Martin is also a member of the coalition.
The Butler Center for Service and Leadership, the Association of Greek Letter Organizations, the Interfraternity Council, the Office of Housing and Residential Life, the Student Health Center, the Division of Student Affairs, the President’s Campus Coalition on Sexual Violence Prevention and Education, the Panhellenic Association, It’s On Us and the Women’s Commission all sponsored the event.