April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the Highland County Alternatives to Violence Center (AVC) is observing it by partnering with Impact Fitness in Hillsboro. The two partnered to “MAKEANIMPACT” and are participating in an event called “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.”
Dara Gullette, director of the AVC, said this is a National SAAM event that started in 2001. This event was designed as a men’s march against sexual assault where men would “literally” wear women’s high heels and walk a mile. Instead, the AVC partnered with Impact Fitness. Members and community members can “donate” their miles to survivors, like AVC’s Facebook page, and tag Impact Fitness in their posts to spread awareness of sexual assault. Both groups have been making donations all month, which includes clothes, food, hygiene items, blankets and other items.
Community members vote on who they want to see walk a mile in “her shoes.” Each vote is $1. The money is collected at Impact Fitness. At the end of the month, the man that has the most votes will walk a mile in a pair of women’s red high heels. The walk will happen at Impact Fitness on a treadmill. Gullette said the timing of the walk depends on who gets the most votes and their schedule, but that it will happen sometime in the last week of the month. All of the proceeds of the event will go toward the AVC and survivors of sexual assault in the community.
Gullette said 18 men have been nominated at $5 each. Those men include: Ron Martin, James Scott, Terence Williams, Josh Bell, Caleb Gregory, Thad Conover, Tyler Williams, Tom Daniels (owner of Impact Fitness), Todd Cumberland, Mike Labig, Darby Hodge, Greg “Frog” Williams, Jeff Griffith, Chris Inlow, Kyle Prose, Ethan Parry, Dane Boling and Branson Troyer. Their names are posted on a wall at the gym, and the AVC has been sharing the contest on their social media.
“We are very excited that everyone is being a good sport about this event and really getting involved,” Gullette said. “This is a fun event that focuses on a hard topic. Alternatives to Violence Center has received several phone calls over the past few weeks with community members asking how they can get involved. We appreciate everyone’s continued support.”
The AVC is a “domestic violence/rape crisis advocacy center” that gives 24-hour crisis intervention, education and community awareness. Advocates at AVC are trained to provide immediate service, using trauma-informed care.
The organization works to educate its community on services available to survivors, creating a “space where it is safe to ask for help and to answer questions.” The organization educates in schools as well, with programs like “Too Good for Violence” and “Safe Dates.”
“These classes educate students on what a healthy relationship looks like, warning signs of any abusive relationship and what to do in these situations,” Gullette said. “We also offer a ‘Darkness to Light’ training which educates adults on the warning signs of sexual abuse in children.”
She said sexual assault “is a problem” in the county and that, unfortunately, most sexual assaults go unreported because of “guilt, shame and not knowing what resources are available.”
Gullette said her goal in stopping sexual assault is to “set an example” for the youth in the community as to what a healthy relationship looks like. Then, if they see it’s not, “maybe it’s time to look in the mirror and take the necessary steps to break that cycle.”
For those that don’t suffer from sexual assault, Gullette said they should talk to young people in their life about consent, healthy boundaries and healthy masculinity, also stressing to allow them to ask questions “without making them feel like these are taboo topics.”
According to Gullette, to stop sexual assault, it is important to “always” believe survivors as well as “never” victim blame.
“We live in a world where people are too quick to judge and make assumptions about survivors,” she said. “No one asks to be sexual abused. No one does anything to deserve to be sexually assaulted. The majority of sexual violence is committed by someone we know. Trauma affects everyone differently. We all think we know how we would respond or what we would do in certain situations until it happens to us. Let survivors work through trauma at their own pace. Be patient. Listen.”
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.