More than 55 Keene State College students showed their support to raise awareness about sexual assault and gender violence at the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes kickoff event.
On Wednesday, Feb. 4 in the Mabel Brown Room from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. students gathered to show their support for the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, which will be held Saturday, April 18.
According to the Walk-A-Mile website, the event is an international men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence.
The event is an opportunity to raise awareness in the community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to men’s sexualized violence against women, according to their website. According to the flyer, this will be KSC’s ninth year doing this event.
Jake Loyd, a member of the KSC Phi Lambda Chi fraternity, said he and about ten other members of the fraternity went to the kickoff to show their support for the event.
“Fraternities generally get a bad [reputation] with this kind of stuff, so it’s nice to show our support for it so other people get rid of that stigma they have toward us,” Loyd said.
During the kickoff event there was a make-your-own ice cream sundae bar and a shoe-decorating competition. Each of the ten groups were asked to decorate as many of the provided shoes as they liked, using crafts including paint, ribbon and sparkles.
Harmony Reid is the education and community outreach coordinator at Monadnock Center for Violence Protection [MCVP] who works closely with the KSC Walk-A-Mile committee.
She said, “Ice cream is a huge attraction and the [students] thought it would be fun to do something interactive and shoe-related since it’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.”
For the winners of the decorating competition they also had shoe-related prizes, which included a gift card to Subway to get a “foot-long” and another to Ted’s Shoe and Sport.
While discussing the kickoff event, Jeremiah Miller, the co-chair of KSC Walk-A-Mile, said, “I think this is a good way to bring in the general population.”
“You get to go in there and decorate a shoe and it’s fun, but it also opens up the conversation for sexual assault,” he said.
He continued, “No one gets excited or likes to talk about it but this creates a good platform to start a dialogue in an informal setting.”
He said opening up the dialogue about this topic in a relaxed way gets students to remember the importance of stopping sexual assault and abuse, especially on a college campus, and also helps students remember why they are a part of the cause.
He also said students become passionate about stopping this problem and as a result start spreading the word.
McKenzie Vaughan, a KSC senior part of the off-campus sorority Sigma Rho Upsilon [EPY], said she has done the walk event twice, but hadn’t gone to a kickoff event before.
“I was studying abroad last year but my sisters had a lot of fun doing this so I decided to come this time,” Vaughan said.
“Plus,” she said, “I love to craft, so why not support a cause by doing something I love?”
Vaughan said her sorority decorated two shoes for the competition, one of which came in second place.
She said the reason she came to the event was because she realizes the importance of supporting this cause.
“I believe this is an issue that’s not brought up a lot because of embarrassment and shame and I don’t think it should be. I think [survivors] should be able to get the help they need and we should all make sure it is prevented in the future,” Vaughan said.
Reid from MVCP said she sees the kickoff as an important event not only to get students aware of the walk event but also to start the fundraising season.
“The kickoff event is important because it gets students talking about it, so more students know that there is an event coming up,” she said.
She explained, “But this is not a one day event. This is when we start talking about it, we start fundraising and exposing people to this to make sure people realize it’s a problem and we’re here to do something about it.”
Reid said every year the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event at KSC raises $20,000.
This money goes to MCVP, which makes it one of biggest fundraisers for the organization, according to Reid.
“The money goes toward survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and is used for anything from care kits we take to the hospital to making sure we can help someone when we need to. It makes sure we have things that we can provide for survivors if it may occur,” she explained.
Miller added, “Since [the Walk-A-Mile committee] doesn’t work directly with victims, this allows us to raise money to give to organizations that do work with the survivors that got through a traumatic event.”
Forrest Seymour, the coordinator of sexual violence education and prevention at the KSC Counseling Center, added that MCVP is a local crisis agency that also helps students when they are in a crisis involving sexual violence.
“They can call and get an advocate to meet them, talk with them and help them. It is great resource for students if they need it,” he said.
Seymour said students and community members can raise money through an online donation page that they create where students, friends, family or strangers can donate or pledge money for them to walk.
Vaughan said after the kickoff event is when she and her sorority will start their fundraiser.
“With the start of the semester things get a little crazy but now we’ll be able to reach out to alumni, friends and the community to see if we can raise some money for this event,” Vaughan said.
Reid said that, although each person participating in the walk is encouraged to raise money, there is no requirement to do so.
Seymour added that there are usually about 400 people, both students and members of the community, who walk and anyone is welcome to register in the event.
Miller said, “Yes, this is the chance to raise money, but it is more than that, this is an awareness campaign.”
Taylor Thomas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org