Walk in Her Heels fashionably raises awareness of domestic violence

The SAFE Place and other SF State sexual and relationship health educators are getting the word out about domestic violence and sexual assault on campus.

Today marks the fifth year that The SAFE Place has sponsored Walk in Her Heels—a campus event that raises awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence, and raises money for San Francisco shelters for women who suffered domestic abuse like the Riley Center and Casa de los Madres.

Male volunteers have been walking around in women’s heels to spark curiosity and lure students into conversations about abuse toward women.

“When we look at violence, we have to be inclusive to all people,” said Ismael de Guzman, men’s prevention education specialist for The SAFE Place and a crisis counselor. “The program that we run, Men Can Stop Violence, is really about allowing men to be part of the solution.”

William Barthe volunteered at the event by walking around campus in heels while wearing a sign that read, “College-aged women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted.” The statistics come from Rainn.org: Rape Assault Incest National Network, which is considered nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization by Worth magazine.

“These signs are statistics around women, sexual assault and sexual violence,” Barthe, 19, sophomore criminal justice major said. “We want to raise awareness about how susceptible college-age women are to violence. We, here at The SAFE Place, are here to prevent that and also to provide counseling to victims.”

There were many SF State peer organizations on the quad aiding to get information out to students in solidarity with The SAFE Place.

Corenthia Teerawattanasook, 21-year-old junior biology major and volunteer for PEACH (Peer Educators Advocating Campus Health), made a shirt to add to the clothesline. Students can decorate shirts in support of the event and against sexual assault and domestic abuse. The shirts are hung on the clothesline and taken to the Cesar Chavez Student Center for display.

“I really love The SAFE Place. It’s a really awesome spot for students,” Teerawattanasook said.

PEACHes offer one-on-one counseling to better serve the community. They also educate about sexual health education, STI information, safe sex, self-exams for men and women. There are also nutrition PEACHes.

“That’s really what goes into safe sex, as well, is that open communication,” Teerawattanasook said. “Keep the conversation going. Talking about things won’t hurt you.”

“This is my first time walking in heels,” said Aaron Taylor, a member of The SAFE Place and sophomore creative writing major.

Taylor said people were curious and very supportive of the event.

“I feel like the guys on campus aren’t as open to it as a lot of the girls have been because we are challenging the idea of masculinity by wearing heels,” Taylor said. “We’re no longer being kept in the box of masculinity. We’re trying to redefine that, and what masculinity means and what it means to be a man.”

EROS, a sexual health organization on campus, Active Minds, a student-run mental health organization, and CEASE, an alcohol and drug education program, were also there to support the event and give students information.

“EROS definitely promotes consent and empowering your own sexuality and education,” Allison Pugh, junior health education major and EROS intern, said. “Not a lot of women in our culture get a hold of their sexuality.  They feel that it’s wrong to be in touch with their sexuality. We promote a better understanding about that.”

EROS also refers students who are being abused to appropriate resources. Students can check out books and other materials to self-educate.

“It’s a place anyone can come and get information about what is healthy,” Pugh said.

John Rabago of Active Minds said that it’s important to seek help, whether it’s verbal, physical or emotional abuse. It’s important to talk about it, Rabago said.

“The worst thing you can do is to stay quiet about it,” Rabago said. “Seek out a friend.  If you are that friend, if you notice that you have that friend who’s going through a situation where you feel that they are abused, be proactive rather than reactive. Make the effort to take the first step toward them and say ‘hey, I’m concerned, can we talk about this?’”

Walk in Her Heels, Clothesline Project, National Coming Out Day and CockTales are SF State events that look at sexual assault and domestic violence as a form of oppression, de Guzman said

“A lot of the programming is about creating awareness,” de Guzman said.

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