My life has been blessed by amazing women. I have an amazing wife. I am the father of two beautiful girls. I am the son of the world’s greatest mother. I have a mother-in-law who has loved me with all of her heart since joining her family many years ago. These women, along with grandmothers, aunts, cousins, friends, and co-workers, have played a huge role in my life to date. These women make life worth living each and every day. They are a shining light to the dark, a warming heat to the cold, and a rainbow of vivacious color in world of black and white. I know that I am not alone in these blessings. You, too, have amazing women in your life. That is why I need your attention right now.
Did you know that in the United States one in six women is a victim of sexual assault? ONE IN SIX! Every two minutes, a women in our country is sexually assaulted. If you do the math, that is over 248,000 assaults in a given year. As a human being, these statistics are infuriating. As a man, they are disgusting. As a husband, father, and son, the numbers are down right scary. Take a minute and put a face on these statistics. Think about six women (girls) in your life. One of them will be a victim of sexual assault. How does that make you feel? I hope the answer is angry, scared, and terrified. I hope that you agree with me that we ALL must do what we can to stop these crimes. No one’s wife, daughter, mother, or friend should ever have to experience this pain. This week, I took my first step to bring awareness to this epidemic by walking a mile in her shoes.
For the last five years, the Fort Wayne Women’s Bureau has hosted “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”. This community event publicly supports survivors, enhances awareness, and raises funds that help stop rape and sexual assault in our area. Each participant is asked to “walk a mile in her shoes” by walking a one-mile course in a pair of bright red high heels. Yes, one mile in red stilettos. I have worn a dress, why not add the appropriate footwear to my portfolio. I was extremely excited to participate in the event, but I was also fearful. First, I am a big man with big feet. Finding a pair of heels that fit would not be easy. The Women’s Bureau provided me with a pair of size 16 shoes, the biggest they had available. Unfortunately, they were not quite big enough. Second, I have terrible ankles due to years of basketball, sprains, strains, surgeries, arthritis, and bone spurs. I can sprain an ankle by stepping on a small pebble. Could I handle a mile in high heels was the question that raced through my mind the night before the event. Only time would tell.
The day of the event had arrived and the thought of walking in my shiny red high heels became real. I was really doing this. My ankles were really going to have to do this. The pre-walk atmosphere was electric. I was proud to see so many men stepping up to support this cause. Stepping up may not be the right word. Sacrificing may be more appropriate. I crammed my foot into my heels as the start time approached. If you thought I was tall before, you should see me rocking my pumps. The walk started and I began the journey. The first half of the mile was not too difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I was in agonizing pain, but my ankles were holding up their end of the bargain. As I entered the second half of the mile, things changed. My ankles began to weaken and walking became a challenge. At times I walked into the grass so that my stiletto heel would sink into the ground. This gave me a few seconds of relief. I continued on and I continued to struggle. I started to look like Bambi trying to gain footing for the first time. My ankles rolled in all directions and the pain was elevating. I marched on because that’s who I am. I am not a quitter and I was doing it for the cause. As I approached the end, I could not go any further. My ankles had completed given out and I had to stop. I made it approximately .9 of the mile before taking the shoes off. I crossed the finish line in my tennis shoes. I felt defeated. I had failed. The goal was to complete the mile and I had fallen short. I have a new-found respect for women you walk, run, and dance in those shoes. You are much tougher than I am.
Regardless of my failure and the pain, I am so glad that stepped outside my comfort zone and participated in this great event. That day opened my eyes to sexual assault. Indiana ranks #2 in the United States for reported sexual assaults among high school girls. As a father of two teenagers, I am committed to protecting my girls and changing these numbers.. I am willing to do whatever necessary to share the statistics and open the eyes of others in our community. I will forever be an advocate. With your help we can educate others about this crisis and work to decrease the number of women who are sexually assaulted each year. I took my first step. Will you? Will you walk a miles in her shoes? It is a mile that you will never forget!