JACKSONVILLE, N.C. --
“There he goes just a walking down the street singing doo-a-diddy-diddy-dum- diddy-doo.” Yes, you read right – he. Though music artist, Manfred Mann, may not have pictured a man walking down the street when he wrote this song, that’s exactly what passers-by saw on Western Boulevard the morning of April 16.
Men were seen parading the streets in high heels using the sidewalk as their “catwalk” in the man’s fight against sexual assault.
Dubbed, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” more than 150 men and women, mostly service members and their spouses, attended the Onslow County Women’s Center’s mile-long initiative, which began and ended at the Onslow Memorial Hospital parking lot.
April is sexual assault awareness month, and according to the international Walk a Mile in Her Shoes website, the march is an opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to sexualized violence.
Suzanne Wilber, the Onslow County Women’s Center executive director and organizer for the event, said the event brings awareness of the serious issue to the public.
“People drove by and literally saw men in high heels marching against sexual assault,” said Wilber. “These guys took time out of their day to walk in women’s shoes and felt what it was like to be a woman, all the while preventing sexual assault at the same time.”
Snide remarks, hollering and car horns from passers-by could be heard as these courageous men braved the busy street in their pumps or stilettos. While these men never experienced this type of attention, walking in high heels is not easy and most, if not all, were seen looking at the ground trying to coordinate their strut through town.
It wasn’t pretty.
Staff Sgt. Jeremy Burns, a court reporter for Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, said the first thing he did when he woke was put on the pair of high heels he purchased the previous day and began his morning routine.
“This was the first time in my life where my appearance really mattered,” said Burns. “I actually cared if my shirt matched my high heels. I was trying to get my ‘coordination on’ before the event. I was walking around the house doing house things and what not. Took some time getting use to it and it sure wasn’t painless.”
“He even changed the cat litter,” added his wife, Meghan.
On a more serious note, sexual assault is everywhere and occurs quite often. Every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and 60 percent of these crimes go unreported.
Wilber said most people think the woman who gets sexually assaulted is partially to blame in certain situations, such as a woman hanging out with a group of guys at 2 a.m. after a night of drinking, but in the end, the crime should have never happened.
“We’re in a society that likes to play the blame game,” said Wilber. “Whether the girl is the only female in a group, has a short skirt or whatever, is irrelevant. Ultimately it should be prevented.”
Burns didn’t show up for the event because he has a personal attachment. His job was the main reason.
“I am a court reporter and I have to listen to cases of sexual assault all the time,” said Burns. “It kills me when these victims have to re-live their experiences through pretrial, during the trial and post trial. I just don’t like women being abused.”
After the walk, the Onslow County Women’s Center held a “Stiletto Stampede” to get all the male participants race each other in their high heels. The race, however, didn’t seem to slow the men down.
“These guys are competitive,” said Wilber. “I remember last year we had a semi-pro football team race and they were throwing elbows and everything. There were no elbow jabs this year, but if you looked at them walking the mile and compare it with the race, you could tell they wanted to win.”
After the day’s event, Wilber gathered everyone around to thank them for their efforts to raise awareness about sexual assault.
“We are all humans, we make mistakes,” said Wilber. “We can’t judge or blame one another when sexual assault occurs. But, what we can do is step up, take ownership and prevent it.”