More and more Rome residents descend on Broad Street each year in October for an annual event that has come to symbolize the community’s unity and its willingness to support an important cause.
It also happens to be a fun time.
The Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event will take place Oct. 12 and once again men from all over the community are trying on high heels, wedges, pumps and slingbacks in preparation for their walk.
Everyone is invited to the event, of course. Hundreds of men, women and children participate in the walk each year. But men are encouraged to wear women’s shoes and they are good sports about it.
The event actually has a serious objective — to raise awareness to the issue of domestic violence in our community. And organizers have found that men wearing high heels and stumbling down Broad Street is simply a way to bring attention to the event and thus get more people talking about the real issue.
“It is difficult to believe that in this day in time this kind of conversation is still necessary,” said Ashley Demonbreun-Chapman, Outreach Coordinator at the Hospitality House for Women, Inc. “Domestic Violence. How is this still a leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 19 and 34? How are we still plagued with questions like ‘Well, why does she stay?’ It grows tiresome. At the same time I feel inspired by our community partners and supporters as they stand with us in our efforts to end it. I am most inspired by all the women and men who stand up, and bravely share their stories of survival and healing with us.
The Walk a Mile Event — which is free to the public — is one way to draw attention to the serious issue of domestic violence. Hundreds of Rome and area residents will gather at Rotary Plaza at 11 a.m. on Oct. 12. After a few words from event organizers about domestic violence and the recognition of domestic violence survivors, the gathered crowd can enjoy music, mascots and hilarious competition featuring men in the highest heels or the “hottest” legs.
From Rotary Plaza, participants will walk down two blocks of Broad Street and then loop back down to end where the parade began. All the while, gathered crowds along the route will cheer them on. The event will end around 12:45 p.m.
Each year men go all out for the event. Some wear women’s flip flops and sandals but many brave individuals strut down Broad Street in brightly colored stiletto heels and platform boots.
Participants are encouraged to register online before the event. Registration can be done at www.hospitalityhouseforwomen.org/wam-2018 and those who register get a free tshirt.
Organizers will also have several pairs of shoes and sandals at Rotary Plaza before the start of the event so that men who don’t have their own pair of heels can borrow one for the walk.
Demonbreun-Chapman said there are two important things to understand about domestic violence.
“First, domestic violence does not discriminate,” she said. “It is not confined to any one group or groups of people, but crosses all economic, social, racial, and societal barriers. Secondly, it is fueled by silence, and societal indifference within all groups of people and cultures.”
She added that young people in this and other communities get the message that domestic violence is normal.
“They see it happening and they see the silence around it,” she said. “That is why Domestic Violence Awareness Month is so important to us. It is a time we can bring the community together and educate people on our mission. We get the opportunity now to explain ‘she stays because he will kill her if she leaves.’ ‘She stays because she knows no other options.’ ‘She stays because he threatens to take the kids from her.’ ‘She stays because she has no financial independence.’ ‘She stays because she believes she can help him.’ ‘She stays because deep down she believes this is normal and she deserves it.’ ‘She stays because she has nowhere else to go.’ We will continue to beat our drum and offer our message of support and prevention. We want young people to understand that a healthy relationship is built on mutual respect, and a willingness to be healthy yourself. We want adults to understand its important to believe survivors, and instead of asking about why they stay, ask how you might help. Ask of our culture how are we affirming this message, and how is it normalized? How can we work to prevent it?”
That’s why events like Walk A Mile are important. Because of the light-hearted nature of the event, more community members are drawn to it, but they’re also supporting organizations such as the Hospitality House for Women which is Rome and Floyd County’s only certified Domestic Violence shelter and prevention program. It has been serving the Rome and Floyd community since 1978 in its mission to help victims and survivors of Domestic Violence through offering safe shelter.
The Hospitality House also offers many other services and a person does not have to live in the shelter to receive help. It is a free, safe and confidential resource for anyone who needs help, advocacy and support in fleeing, or staying away from an abusive partner or family member.
If you or someone you know needs help please call the 24 hour crisis line at 706-235-4673 or visit online at www.hospitalityhouseforwomen.org to learn more.
“Stand with us this October,” Demonbreun-Chapman said. “Stand tall. Help us break the silence. Help us spread the message that abuse will not be tolerated in our homes, neighborhoods, churches, schools or our Rome and Floyd County community at large.