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UI fraternities participate in 'Walk a Mile in her Shoes'

BY LAUREN COFFEY | OCTOBER 01, 2012 6:30 AM

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As men walk down the street with red high heels, pedestrians will stare. Perhaps more important than the red high heels are the signs the men are holding. With such statistics as “1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime” and “85 percent of all sexual assaults happen by someone you know,” these are the things that should make people turn their heads.

“The purpose of this event is to raise awareness in a unique, creative way,” said Reid Senesac, co-director of the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event. “We want to bring up this issue and if we all come together as a community we can tackle these issues a lot quicker and more efficiently.”

Phi Delta Theta and Pi Beta Phi hosted the second Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event; the men who participated wore high heels to show their support to end sexual assault.

“I actually helped start the event last year,” Phi Delta Theta member Patrick Grimm said. “I was president [of the fraternity]; we thought it was an important problem in the community. Obviously, there’s sort of a pervasive stereotype about the males in the greek community, and we thought we’d crash that stereotype and also raise awareness about a good cause.”

The UI saw 10 cases of forcible sex offenses on campus in 2011, an increase from six in 2010 and nine in 2009, according to the Clery Report issued by UI police last week.

Phi Delta Theta and Pi Beta Phi wanted to break down the stereotypes associated with greek life dealing with possibilities of sexual assault, especially with the coverage of Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s alleged sexual-assault investigation in recent news.

Iowa City police officials received a report on Sept. 11 of a sexual assault at the fraternity’s address, 302 Ridgeland Ave. The case is still under investigation.

“With the coverage of SAE, many fraternities are targets of improper behavior and occasional perpetrators,” said Jacob Oppenheimer, the graduate coordinator of the Men’s Antiviolence Council and keynote speaker for the informational portion of the walk. “We have an incredible position to make huge changes on campus. We tend to get pigeonholed and isolated [with stereotypes against fraternities] but we can say gender violence is not acceptable.”

Some members of the fraternity and sorority had personal connections to the cause.

“Personally, I’ve had issues with sexual violence and dating violence,” event co-director Julie Schumann said. “I think it’s a really good thing [to raise awareness about sexual assault] because like, I didn’t know when I was in an abusive relationship. It’s really important for people to know how to get out of [an abusive relationship], who to talk to, where to go to. I think it’s important for men to realize maybe if they’re accidently doing it, or if their friends are.”

Frank Baird, founder of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, created the organization in 2001, when men were seen as the victims of sexual assault. The organization now has an average of 300 walks a year.

“I was working at a crisis center, and at the time, rape was a women’s issue, all the work [to end sexual assault] was being done by women,” Baird said. “I thought this could be an outreach to men. It’s not the typical macho thing to do, and it helps men appreciate the value of the role they play in ending sexual assault.”


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