BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - There’s just something funny about men trying to walk while wearing women’s footwear, but there is a serious message behind it when it comes to the annual Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event that marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
About half a dozen men accepted the challenge to put on heels and walk along the Biloxi Lighthouse Pier Friday morning. The one-mile walk is held each year to call attention to the problem of sexual violence against women.
Barry Newman was among the few brave men who slid on the high heels for the morning walk put on by the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence.
“I keep forgetting how the heels hurt,” he said. “I don’t know why women do this, wear heels, I mean.”
He’s done it for about four years and was one of about six men who walked a mile in red high heels to raise awareness about sexual violence against women. Many others joined them in the march, although they opted to wear shoes that were more comfortable.
“I do have Band-Aids for the blisters that will result,” Newman said. “But that’s all right. It’s a small price to pay.”
It’s a small price to pay to help prevent a big problem.
“Sexual assault happens to a lot of folks, and often in our culture, in our society, we blame the people who are victims of sexual assault,” Newman said. “So, this is a way for men to come out and show that they’re allies.”
Dave Philo has been doing the event since it started. His wife, Jane Philo, was the former director of the center, and he always comes prepared.
“After the first year and falling all over the place in these shoes that they furnish here, I decided to get my own if I was going to do it on a regular basis,” he said with a laugh.
Stephanie Piper is a sexual assault victim advocate for the Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence and coordinator of the event.
“It definitely gets the attention that people are looking for,” she said. “This is our lighthearted way of bringing awareness to sexual assault.”
The men carried signs saying “No Means No,” “Stop Rape,” and other messages as they carefully walked the mile.
“It’s all about awareness. We’re just trying to get the word out,” Piper said. “And even when people don’t want to come out and walk a mile in her shoes, they’re still more likely to come and do presentations. We do that for free. All of our services for victims at the center are free.”
Her definition of success for the event?
“If we have fun, but we are more aware at the end," Piper said.
In addition to the walk, Geico donated a refurbished car for clients in shelter programs.
Stacey Riley, CEO of Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence, said the shelter serves about 250 new sexual assault victims every year.
This was the eighth annual-Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.