Walk a mile in her shoes

Thirteen men participated in the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ in Castor on June 17 including, from the left, Alex Bauer, Keegan Miller and Max Schaffner. ECA Review/J. Geddes

by Jamie Geddes

On Fri., June 17, main street Castor beheld an unusual sight as several men donned red high heeled shoes to walk a mile in them in an effort to raise awareness and money to help women who have survived violence at the hands of men.

A crowd of supporters gathered to take part in the event and cheer the male walkers on as they made a mile in women’s shoes.  Three young men ran part of the way in their heels.

Lorne Dewart with East Central Ambulance Association posted a challenge on Facebook that he would wear a dress and heels if he could garner $300 for the Walk. He was able to receive more than double his challenge wager and he kept his word.

The Association of Community Against Abuse (ACAA) from Stettler, along with Coronation/Consort Victim Services (CCVS) and Paintearth Family & Community Support Services (PFCSS) gathered to facilitate the walk and had information available on the services they provide.
Judilonne Beebe, Director of ACAA in Stettler is also Chairman of the board of the Camrose Women’s Shelter and she has been directly involved with advocacy and helping women who have survived sexualized abuse and assault as well as domestic violence for over 40 years.

“Often funding for services for victims of sexualized abuse is scant and often organizations are required to piecemeal their fundin,” said Beebe. “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes helps us achieve some of the necessary funds to provide the long term support we are privileged to offer.

ACAA primarily provides counselling for victims of sexualized abuse and assault. They believe in offering long term support, not just five or six sessions and then move on to the next person. They don’t do that. Their goal is to help them from a state of brokenness to wellness.

We support approximately 140 clients ranging in ages from three to 78. All of them have suffered trauma related to sexualized abuse. We are aware that adults who have survived such trauma often develop some very unhealthy coping behaviour.”

Beebe continues, “We start by meeting people where they are at. We had one client who began her journey with us while living in a car with two of her children.

The therapist met her at her car and that is where her first counselling sessions took place. With support she was able to get into housing and back on her feet. It took three years to get on stable ground and she continues to connect with us today. Other agencies are not able to do this but we saw the need and we found a way.

There are some things our clients will not ever “get over.” The body retains physical memory of the abuse and often simple things or things that would be simple for others will trigger the survivor to freeze or fall apart. These body memories are a difficult challenge and for many they do not leave but may diminish.

However, with help we often see them eventually regain a balance in their lives as they work toward wellness.”

Some of the walkers shared what brought them out to the walk and what they hoped to achieve by participating in the event.

Max Schaffner, a summer student with Paintearth Lodge is a two-time veteran of the walk says, “This is a great way to raise money for a good cause that far too often goes unnoticed and I want to help bring awareness and see violence toward women stop.”

Colm Fitzgerald, County of Paintearth Community Peace Officer states, “I see the youth show up and I know that with good education and awareness that they can be a part of the solution to end the cycle of violence against women.”

Alex Bauer, a Castor youth says, “I am here today to help raise money for a good cause and to bring awareness to this issue.”

The Government of Canada website lists forms of violence and abuse as:  physical, sexual (adults and children), emotional or psychological, financial, criminal harassing/stalking, neglect, violence committed in the name of “honour’, and forced marriage.

Mandy Fuller, Director for FCSS in Castor says, “The education regarding abuse and violence against women is so necessary because even today so many think that it is not prevalent in our area and yet we know that it is. It is seen as a non-existent entity in this area. This event helps raise the awareness that it is an issue and one that needs addressing.”

Canadianwomen.org states, “Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.

Sixty-seven per cent of all Canadians say they personally know at least one woman who has been physically or sexually assaulted.

Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.

Eighty per cent of sex trafficking victims in Canada are women and girls.

More than one in ten Canadian women say they have been stalked by someone that made them fear for their life.

Just over half the violent crimes against girls are committed by a family member, 23 per cent were perpetrated by a casual acquaintance, 10 per cent by a stranger, five per cent by a friend and five per cent by an authority figure.”

ACAA also provides presentations and workshops to health care providers, organizations upon request and the schools.”

“Our focus is on awareness in the community and area,” said Rhonda Steinwand, board member for the ACCAA-East Central district. “We advise that is help available and we encourage people to not be afraid to access it.”

Frank Baird, Licensed Marriage and Family Counsellor in California founded Walk a Mile in her Shoes in 2001.

What started out as a small group of men daring to totter around a park has grown to become a world-wide movement with tens of thousands of men raising millions of dollars for local rape crisis centres, domestic violence shelters and other sexualized violence education, prevention and remediation programs.

CCVS hosted a free barbecue after the walk and had a donation bucket available. The proceeds from the walk and barbecue is going to ACAA’s programs that directly service victims of sexualized assault.

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