Men of Valor: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes …

Michael McGee | 10/10/2013, 10:06 a.m.
What can we do about it? How is this my problem? Why doesn’t she leave him? These are questions bystanders ...
Photo on Left: D.A. Craig Watkins participates in Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Photo on Right: Decorated shoe celebrates Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

What can we do about it? How is this my problem? Why doesn’t she leave him?

These are questions bystanders sometimes ask when they discover those around them are dealing with domestic or sexual violence.

Over the last few years, men have been called upon to step forward and do their part to end sexual violence and domestic abuse. The yearly Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, held Sept. 28 in University Park, was a moment for local men to show their support for the cause.

At the event – the third year in a row for Dallas County – female footwear served as an entertaining focal point for men to join in the dialogue. “The guys” gathered to walk a mile in Liz Claiborne or Prada heels in an attempt to get the message out about prevention and healing. Cara Leman, the chairman for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes for Dallas County, emphasized that males have a place in the fight.

“This is really to engage men in also being part of the solution to ending sexual violence,” she said. “It’s not just something that women can do to solve. We have to come together. So this is a really fun and enthusiastic way to get them to realize that, ‘Hey, we can all be part of the solution, and come on board as well.’”

Don Walters, board director of The Turning Point Rape Crisis Center of Collin County, was one of those men who walked the long trek as he took to the streets dressed as Batman. He pointed out that, in today’s cyber world, a community event such as the Walk a Mile campaign still has a place.

“That’s important because you have actual interaction with people. You’re not just sitting at a computer, texting one another, just e-mail, or Facebook, or Instagram. You’re actually connecting with people,” he said. “You really don’t understand what somebody’s going through or what these situations are unless you’ve got that human interaction going on.”

Although statistics show over and over that women are the most common victims of sexual violence, Melissa Reilly, chairperson of the Dallas County Sexual Assault Coalition, commented on the changing definition, perpetrators and victims of such a crime.

“I think there’s a lot more awareness that it’s not ‘date rape,’” she said. “It’s not a stranger walking down the street. It can be somebody that you know, a family member, relative, boyfriend, girlfriend, ex-, partner. It doesn’t matter. It can happen to anyone and anyone can be a perpetrator,”

Local crime data supports Reilly’s claim. According to the website for The Family Place, in 2011 the Dallas Police Department Family Violence Unit reported 13,733 family violence calls resulting in 1,239 aggravated assaults, 16 murders, 11,529 assaults, 127 offenses against children, 66 rapes and 632 other related offenses. The recent alleged sexual assaults in the Fair Park area also underscore another aspect of the issue.

Leman acknowledged that the problem is even more widespread as some victims have gotten overlooked at times.