Men don high heels to fight sexual violence


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Frontline man Billy Davies strutted down the sidewalk on Clinton Street sporting bright red heels and a smile.

"Are you man enough? Start walking," Davies yelled to a pack of high-energy fraternity brothers.

The University of Iowa senior was among a sea of roughly 70 high-heeled and hairy-legged males and 80 women who made a mile-long trek around the UI campus on Oct. 1 in order to raise awareness for sexual and domestic violence.

"We want to be part of the solution," said Davies, the event executive director. "So we are standing up against the subjugation of women."

In the last 10 years, men have joined the International Men's March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault, & Gender Violence. This year, the fight came to the UI for its first Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event.

"Sexual assault, domestic violence, gender violence is something that affects communities across the world," Davies said.

His fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, the Pi Beta Phi sorority, and the UI Men's Anti-Violence Council worked together to bring the march to campus. Money raised from the event will be given to Iowa City's Rape Victim Advocacy Program.

Karla Miller, the executive director of the program, said these kind of awareness-raising events are important to the cause.

"It's not going to be women who are going to stop this," she said. "If it would have been, we would of stopped this. It's not our behavior to stop."

During fiscal 2011, 249 assaults were reported to the program, 82 of which were UI students — a rise from 2010's 65 student victims reported.

Eighty-five percent of incidents are by perpetrators who know the victims, Miller said, noting that the program talks to thousands of people each year.

"It is so critical to try and address issues from the front end," she said. "We want to make people aware of personal safety."

Miller said bystander prevention, in which men and women intervene in situations involving a victim, is key to addressing the issue.

"It's not a women's issue," she said. "It's really us against the perpetrator."

Jerrod Koon, the Men's Anti-Violence Council coordinator, said he supported the program because he feels fortunate that he doesn't have to worry about domestic violence on a daily basis.

"If you are going to talk about a societal issue, you need the community to be involved," said Koon, who provided an educational speech after the walk. "Silence allows bad things to happen."

Education is the key to raising awareness, he said, and events such as Walk A Mile are the first steps.

"An event like this is a catalyst," he said, and it would, hopefully, lead to further events.

Sean Grim, member of Phi Delta Theta, said he marched because the issue is "disgraceful."

"It takes a man to respect women, and that's why we are here," the 19-year-old said. "We're here to respect women and fight for their cause."

Grim said the march is a great building block for the UI campus, as well.

"I feel like we are being leaders right now," he said. "People will follow us if we stand up and do this philanthropy. People will think twice before making a stupid choice."

UI junior Erica Sheck of Pi Beta Phi said she wasn't surprised by the male support.

"We have family members, friends, people we love and care about that have gone through a traumatic event," said Sheck, also an event coordinator. "We are trying to do our best to raise awareness and end this."

In order to be man enough to walk again next year, Dan Bettenhausen offered a few pointers.

"Calf workouts," he laughed, pushing forward in his huge red heels. "Wrap tape around my toes, so I don't get blisters."

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