A few painful steps lead to more awareness of violence against women during ‘Walk a Mile’ event in Port Townsend
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Port Townsend High School students Caleb Lombard, 14, Brennan LaBrie, 14, and Steve Riepe, 16, from left, march to increase awareness of violence against women as part of the fifth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Men winced as they stepped along the street in high heels, many of them red, as about 118 people made their way from the ferry dock to the Cotton Building during the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.

The march was the fifth annual event geared toward creating awareness of violence against women.

The route was actually a half-mile, but it served its purpose as a symbolic effort to raise awareness about the crime and its victims.

The Wednesday evening event, in which men wear uncomfortable women’s shoes to help develop empathy for domestic violence victims, is sponsored by Dove House, an advocacy group and shelter located at 1045 10th St.

The crowd was evenly distributed between male and female, young and old.

“Domestic violence isn’t just a women’s issue; it’s also how we educate our men,” said Dove House Executive Director Beulah Kingsolver at a rally after the march.

“We have to start these conversations early and tell young men what is acceptable and what isn’t so we can make that change together,” she added.

“In a few weeks, we will be sending our high school graduates off to college, which is a place where more freshman girls will be sexually assaulted than catch the flu.”

Kingsolver said discussions about sexual assault should be out in the open.

“We don’t want to think about sexual assault, but it is happening, and we need to find ways to stop it,” she said.

“It happens everywhere, to all the people that we love, and the way we change it is by having difficult conversations.”

She added that masculinity does not mean violence.

“There has been a lot of victim blaming and excuses for the rapists like ‘boys will be boys,’ which is my least favorite saying,” Kingsolver said.

“I have three beautiful boys and can tell you that boys can be boys, but they do not rape.”

Said Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans after the event: “Anything that you can do to raise awareness of domestic violence is a good thing.”

Jefferson Superior Court Clerk Ruth Gordon, vice chair of the state Gender and Justice Commission, said definitions are changing.

Not too long ago, “date rape” was considered to be consensual, she noted.

“Everyone needs to hear this message,” Gordon said after the event.

“Does walking down the street in red shoes get that message to more people? I don’t know.

“But hopefully, there will be more public conversation about this and more young women will understand what their rights are.

“It’s our duty as community leaders to stand up for this.”

After Kingsolver spoke, the Poetic Justice Theatre Ensemble interpreted the audience’s feelings about sexual assault and domestic violence in a presentation.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 08. 2014 7:07PM
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