Hundreds of men congregated on the UC Front Lawn to collect a pair of high heels.
These men had committed to walk a mile in women’s heels to stand up against sexual assault on campus and across the country. Joining them was LUPD Chief Jason Schiffer, who spoke to participants about how societal pressures wrongly objectify women.
Lambda Theta Alpha hosted “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” in collaboration with the Center for Gender Equity and other organizations as an effort to foster campus discussion about sexual assault.
Gabriel Montes, ’20, the vice president, secretary, social media chair and orientation leader of Lambda Theta Alpha, said the goal of Walk a Mile is to literally illustrate the saying “You don’t understand until you walk in her shoes.”
“Having men pledge to walk a full mile in women’s heels helps to raise awareness of what women go through every day and then allows important discussion about women’s issues to arise afterwards,” Montes said.
Arturo Alejandro, ’20, participated in the event alongside his brothers in Sigma Phi Delta. He said it was a success.
“Props to y’all because my feet are killing me,” Alejandro said after the walk.
After the event, a debrief and discussion was held for all participants to understand the symbolism behind the event.
“It’s more than just why women take their shoes off at a party, but rather symbolizes the pain and challenges that women often have to face on a college campus,” Montes said.
Aarsenio Perry, an assistant student engagement director, and Tom Collins, a visiting assistant professor of psychology, also attended the discussion and encouraged the men in attendance to speak up about women’s issues on campus.
“Walk a Mile was an incredible experience,” Alejandro said. “I never really thought about what women go through on a college campus, and to be able to just be in their shoes for a short period of time was an eye-opening experience. It really resonated that everyone needs to stand up against sexual assault and domestic violence.”
Montes said starting the conversation was a little difficult, but once it got started, LTA was proud to have facilitated a meaningful discussion about the issue.
The Center for Gender Equity plays a large role in the ongoing discussion about sexual assault awareness.
The event held greater significance because April is National Sexual Assault Awareness month.
“The Office of Gender Violence and Education, does programming around the year to raise awareness about sexual assault,” said Brooke DeSipio, an assistant dean and director of the Office of Gender Violence and Education. “But, April is really an opportunity for us to do a greater series of programming.”
DeSipio said April is an ideal time to focus on sexual assault awareness because the end of the spring semester marks the culmination of the year. The timing works well on college campuses for this reason, as it gives students the time and space for critical thinking and reflection, so that conversation can efficiently and effectively continue in the future.
DeSipio also spoke about the influence the #MeToo movement has had in increasing awareness for sexual violence.
“#MeToo started as a Twitter movement, and that’s the type of activism that works in today’s society,” DeSipio said. “It allows for a variety of experiences and highlights the continuum of gender based violence. Verbal harassment and physical assaults are not the same, but they are on the same continuum. #MeToo helps us to track the bad behavior and stop it.”
DeSipio said that movements for change often start with just one idea.
Karen Salvemini, Lehigh’s Title IX coordinator, said student leadership and involvement in social movements on campus is crucial.
Salvemini said we all need to be leaders.
“From my perspective, I hope that there is a time when we won’t need so much action to be taken because the problem will already be solved,” Salvemini said. “I think it takes all of us to address these behaviors…I think that our campus is committed to addressing and stopping sexual assault, but it’s a monumental task. We have to chip away a little bit at a time.”