Men put their foot down against rape
April 5, 2010 —
Matt Pierson is one male who knows a thing or two about promenading in high heels.
“Don’t walk in the grass. Watch for sewers, and transition carefully from cement to blacktop,” the Phi Kappa Tau brother warned.
Pierson was one of hundreds of men who on Wednesday took an arch-punishing lap around campus in heels to promote putting an end to rape, sexual assault and gender violence.
Their efforts capped off SVSU’s fourth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event — an internationally known march that raised more than $8,500 on campus last year.
From SVSU staff and administrators to athletes and fraternity brothers, men young and old took the challenge to show their support.
“It doesn’t compare to the pain sexual assault victims go through, but it definitely wasn’t easy,” said Paul Webb, a football player and occupational therapy graduate student.
Webb and Pierson each squeezed into a pair of size 17 heels, creating a funny sight meant to open doors for communication on a very serious topic.
The troubling reality as outlined on SVSU’s Web page is that every 90 seconds, a woman in America is raped, and one in six American women is a victim of sexual assault.
Many participants found that traversing in heels wasn’t nearly as hard as it was to listen to guest speaker Wendy Mashue share her sobering story of a history with sexual assault.
Mashue, a Midland woman, spoke about her marriage to a man she had dated on and off for 30 years. It wasn’t long before the relationship turned abusive, and Mashue was forced to live in a mobile home on the couple’s property.
It was when she came inside the house to shower once that her husband demanded sex and raped Mashue when she refused to consent.
“It was really upsetting,” said Brandon Dregouchy, an occupational therapy freshman and men’s soccer player. “I hope I don’t have any friends who are the type that might do anything like that to a woman.”
Pierson agreed. “It was tough to listen to . . . pretty difficult to say the least,” he recounted. “I don’t need to be assaulted to be affected by it.”
The communication senior’s feelings mirror what Walk a Mile in Her Shoes aims to represent — the idea that sexualized violence is an issue that affects both males and females.
“There are men who walk for their moms, sisters, daughters and wives,” said Sara Peeples, a health educator in the University’s Counseling and Health Services department. “They are raising awareness in the community that this does happen and that there are men who are willing to stand up and say I am not an assaulter.”
Fundraising totals from T-shirt sales and donations will be available this week. Benefactors include the Saginaw Sexual Assault Center, Underground Railroad, Bay Area Women’s Center and Midland Shelterhouse.
When the heels came off, Mashue’s story and those of other sexual assault victims made a little foot pain seem miniscule for many marchers.
“If they can make it through all that,” Pierson said, “then we can do a lap around campus in high heels.”