The clicking sound of high-heeled shoes filled Mission Plaza in downtown San Luis Obispo Saturday, but in this case, it was the men who wore the heels.
The 11th annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes attracted both male and female participants of all ages, calling attention to the anti-rape efforts of the Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention (SARP) Center of San Luis Obispo. The event was a mile-long walk in which participating men wore high heels as a symbol of solidarity with those women affected by sexual assault.
The walk started at 11:15 a.m.on Saturday, starting and finishing in Mission Plaza where several sexual assault aid organizations set up booths and the SARP Center held an awards ceremony.
Participants of the walk said they were attracted by its unorthodox take on the standard fundraiser.
“I had never heard about it until this year,” biomedical engineering junior Josh Wilbur said. “I think it’s a really cool idea because it literally puts the guys in the shoes of a girl who may or may not have been sexually assaulted. That kind of demonstration attracts a lot more buzz than any traditional walk.”
Though the walk is traditionally geared toward male participants, it was by no means limited to men, and many women also participated.
“It’s meant to be for men supporting women, but I think that women supporting women is just as important,” Cuesta College student Sandra Swanstrom said. “It’s important for victims to know that people are there for them and rooting for them.”
Some participants said their motivation for joining the effort was partly because of the event’s unique ability to attract attention.
“(I walked) to support the awareness of sexual assault,” San Luis Obispo resident Eric McClure said. “I think SARP Center has done a really good job of bringing that to attention in San Luis Obispo, and I wanted to support that.”
The SARP Center raised money through the event not only by entry fees, but also by sponsoring “celebrity walkers” — well-known community members who raised money through donations. One of these celebrity walkers was Cal Poly’s own Brett Edwards, in character as Mr. Eco, the self-described “environmental rap superhero.” Edwards said the walk was important to him because it is a cause that, to him, deserves the attention of both men and women.
“It’s very unfortunate that it happens so frequently,” Edwards said. “(The SARP Center) does a great job of providing support and recovery.”
Edwards said he was approached by representatives from the SARP Center to participate in the walk as a celebrity walker.
“They reached out to me,” Edwards said. “I have two sisters and a mom who I love very much, so I thought it was a great cause to support. I’m flattered that they chose me to be a celebrity walker.”
Edwards raised $900 through monetary pledges.
Cal Poly greek life supported the event in a similar fashion, allowing fraternities and sororities to sponsor specific walkers. Cal Poly itself also sponsored the event by donation.
To put on the event, the SARP Center collaborated with the international organization Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, which puts on similar events in cities around the world.
The SARP Center merged with the North County Women’s Shelter and Resource Center in January. The center also holds that the combination serves to provide better services to affected women in the area.