Men in high heels appeal to good cause

It takes a real man to wear high heels for something he believes in.

This is what Deputy D.L. Dean, with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, and other law enforcement officials are doing. The men plan to walk a mile in high heels to show support for sexual assault awareness. The goal, Dean said, is to get men thinking and talking about sexual assault so women can see they are committed to addressing victimization.

The heels represent what women mean to the men doing the walk, Dean said. The donning of the heels not only shows what they will go through to show their commitment to sexual assault awareness, but is also is a metaphor for support systems. Most men have no experience walking in high heels, so the women, who are not being asked to wear heels, will be there to guide them.

“They become the person we depend on,” Dean said. “If I stumble (they), are going to be there.”

The proceeds from the event will go to fund sexual assault programs at the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center (DVA/SAC).

“You don’t know what someone has gone through until you have walked in their shoes,” said Lynn Koch, community services coordinator at DVS/SAC. “High heels represent women’s walk in a sense It truly means something when a man stands up and says ‘violence against women is not OK.'”

The “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” trek will begin at 3 p.m. May 11 at the Marshall County Courthouse. This year is the first year Marshalltown is holding the event.

The walkers will head south on Center Street and loop around back to the courthouse by heading west on Church to Second Street then taking Second Street to State Street, State Street to First Street and First Street back down Center Street.

Full Tilt Riders motorcycle club will be on hand.

“We geared it toward the active males, the stereotypical male, the persona of the macho man,” Dean said.

As a victim of childhood sexual assault, Dean said the walk shows men understand victimization. The event brings a male perspective to the equations so women don’t feel so alone in dealing with sexual assault.

According to Justice Bureau statistics, approximately 90 percent of rape victims are women,.

“It’s something we keep buried deep down and don’t talk about it,” Dean said. “For us, it just brings it to the conversation having a little humor dealing with something serious brings down the guard a little, and we can talk about it.”

Koch said funding for sexual assault programs is more crucial as the state continues to consolidate services into regional service areas instead of county service areas. Events like “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” do well to show that sexual assault advocacy is not just women’s work and typifies outside-the-box thinking needed to continue funding essential programs like one-on-one peer counseling, all of which are working with less money since the shift to regional service areas.

According to a 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released earlier this year, nearly 1 in 5 women will be victims of sexual assault in their lives.

With a wife and two daughters, that thought haunts Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper. He said he isn’t embarrassed to walk in heels to show his support. No measure is too great to ensure the safety of women and children.

“When I look around the dinner table, sometimes I wonder if it’s going to happen to my family,” he said. “I want the world to be a better place than it is now.”

Tupper’s wife, Sarah, who is also participating in the walk, handles domestic violence and sexual assault cases for the Marshall County Attorney’s Office. Tupper has extensive experience dealing with such crimes. As a young detective, he said he got a first-hand look at the devastation these crimes have on communities and has made it a personal calling to do all he can to eliminate them.

Tupper said he feels a sense of obligation to draw attention to the issue of sexual assault. With the effort, Tupper said he aims to show Marshalltown’s sons how to respect women and that it is inappropriate to take advantage of and hurt people. Many men think the issue doesn’t affect them; Tupper challenged those men to look again: they will likely discover someone they care about has been a victim.

Early registration deadline for “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” is Friday. The registration fee for general marchers, after Friday, is $40, and the fee is $30 for firefighters, emergency medical service personnel, college students and police and $20 for high school students. Those registering Friday will save $10. For more information write, call 641-485-2959 or visit the event’s Facebook page.