Digging in their heels against sexualized violence

University of Iowa student Billy Davies normally dons Nike tennis shoes or Rider flip-flops to zip across campus.

But this coming Saturday, Oct. 1, Davies, along with 26 other members of the UI Phi Delta Theta Fraternity’s Iowa Beta Chapter, will trade in their comfy footwear and slip into four-inch lipstick-red stiletto heels—all to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence, and to raise funds for the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP).

These 26 young men—along with at least 80 other men and women from the community—will participate in the first local Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. The march will start at 1 p.m. at the intersection of Iowa Avenue and Clinton Street, right in front of the Pentacrest.

The Phi Delta Theta Fraternity’s Iowa Beta Chapter, Pi Beta Phi Sorority’s Iowa Zeta Chapter, and the UI Men’s Anti-Violence Council have come together to bring this initiative to the UI campus with sponsorship from UI Student Government and Coca-Cola.

The walk will start in front of Old Capitol. Participants will walk along the sidewalks up Clinton Street toward Burge Residence Hall, circle back and head toward the Pentacrest via the T. Anne Cleary Walkway, ending at Macbride Hall. The walk will take about 25 minutes.

An educational program, presented by the Men’s Anti-Violence Council, the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, and UISG, will immediately follow the walk, beginning at approximately 1:30 p.m. in the Macbride Hall main auditorium. The talk is free and open to the public.

Frank Baird created Walk a Mile in Her Shoes in 2001. What started out as a small group of men daring to totter around a park has grown to become a worldwide movement with tens of thousands of men raising millions of dollars for local rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and other sexualized violence education, prevention, and remediation programs. For more information, visit www.walkamileinhershoes.org/

Why would these students trade in sneakers for blister-inducing high heels?

“We all have women in our lives who we love and care about, and many of us know women who have been affected by this issue, whether friends, girlfriends or family,” Davies says. “We want to help those who need services and support, but more important, we want to prevent this from happening in the future.”

He added that wearing the shoes symbolizes men’s support for women on the UI campus and in the community.

“This is an issue that affects communities across the country as well as our local and university community,” Davies says. “We are coming together to become a part of a movement to end sexualized violence, thereby making our community safer. ”

Davies says that men are usually portrayed as the villains in such situations, and “womanizer” is one of the traditional negative stereotypes of fraternity men, he added.

“We want to show that the men of the fraternity and sorority community and UI community want to be part of the solution,” Davies says.

Davies says organizers hope to raise between $1,500 to $2,000 from this year’s event, with all proceeds going to RVAP, a sexual assault crisis center based in Iowa City that provides crisis line support, counseling, advocacy, and education services to the citizens of four counties in Iowa as well as the UI community.

Participants may register at the IMU Box Office (in the first floor of the Iowa Memorial Union). The registration fee is $15 to participate in the march. Discounts are available for teams of five and 10 ($70 for a team of five, $120 for a team of 10). Participants each receives a t-shirt if they register in advance.

Though there are currently about 100 participants registered, Davies urges more people—men and women—to get involved. Though women are encouraged to participate, only the guys wear the high heels, Davies says. Organizers hope to draw at least 200 participants for the event.

Though men are encouraged to wear high heels, they are optional this first year, Davies says. More important, he added, is that men turn out to show support and be part of the solution. Men who are planning to wear high heels are encouraged to practice walking in them before the march, and anyone who registers must sign a liability waiver.

For more information, contact Davies at 847-636-3642 or william-f-davies@uiowa.edu or Pat Grim at patrick-grim@uiowa.edu. For more information about RVAP, visit www.uiowa.edu/~rvap.

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