Students wear high heels for a cause

After the conclusion of the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event on Tuesday, participants return their high heel shoes to the pile and tables at Centennial Mall. The event raised a total of $2,500 for Hope Harbor.

Kathryn Ziesig

Walk a Mile

The men of WKU slipped on high heels and marched up the Hill to raise awareness for sexual assault on Tuesday during the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.

The Interfraternity Council (IFC) hosted the event to raise money for the non-profit organization Hope Harbor. According to the Hope Harbor website, they provide nonjudgmental and confidential support services for people affected by sexual assault or abuse.

Juan Pinilla, director of activities for IFC, was the primary coordinator of the event and wanted to get involved with IFC to help make a change in the Greek community at WKU.

“It’s such a relevant issue, especially among us college students, to raise awareness for sexual assault, specifically sexual assault against women, because it’s something that happens a lot more than we realize,” Pinilla said.

According to the Hope Harbor website, one in six women and one in eight men have experienced rape as a child and/or as an adult, and 80 percent of sexual assault victims are under the age of 30.

The walk began in Centennial Mall, where participants and spectators listened to speeches from Johnny Bush, the IFC president and Elizabeth Madariaga, the sexual assault services coordinator at WKU, before beginning their march.

Madariaga spoke to the crowd and shared stories of sexual assault that happened to WKU students and called to action the members of Greek life to help with the cause.

“Folks, it starts with you,” Madariaga said. “It’s about being aware. It’s about being proactive. It’s about being thoughtful and responsible. It’s about being what each of your chapter’s values are built on like brotherhood and sisterhood, character, service, leadership. So today, as this is a fun way to approach a difficult topic, don’t let the conversation stop here.”

The men started the mile walk at the bottom of the hill and made their way up to Cherry Hall and back down to Centennial Mall. People on the street would stop, take photos, and cheer as the men walked along.

For many of the walkers, it was their first time participating, but for junior Dalton Harshbarger, 21 and a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, it was his second year doing the walk. Harshbarger said the last time he participated he expected his feet to be bleeding by the end of the walk, because of how much pain he was in.

“I feel pretty good,” Harshbarger said while trudging up the hill with his friends. “It hurts, but it’s for a good cause,  so I like it.”

While some of the men took to walking in heels well, there were many who struggled to make it to the end. During the walk, Charley Pride, director of student activities, helped Erik Roepke, a freshman from Bowling Green, down the Hill so he wouldn’t hurt himself.

“I’ve had a couple falls and scrapes, but as far as hurt, messed up knees or ankles, no,” Pride said before the start of the walk. “Got a lot of blisters, but I’m hoping I’m not jinxing myself.”

Andrew Rash, coordinator of student activities for Greek affairs, said he participated in the walk when he was a student at WKU and found a new appreciation for women and high heels.

“I told my wife ‘listen, if you never wear high heels again, that’s perfectly OK,’” Rash said.

Rash said they expected 50 to 70 people to participate but was happy with the turnout of about 70 men.

Last year there were about 60 participants who raised $1,575 for Hope Harbor. This year they beat that number by raising $2,500.

WKU and IFC plan to continue their battle against sexual assault and bring the message to even more people across the community.

“We’re not just going to be bystanders or onlookers,” Pinilla said. “We want to take action. We want to let others know that this is an issue, and we want to make a change.”

According to the WKU website, there will be more sexual assault prevention events held during the month of April, sexual assault prevention month.

The Vagina Monologues will take place on April 10 in the DSU auditorium, there will be a Zumba: Exercise for Empowerment event at the Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College on April 11, and on April 20, the Take Back the Night event will be held at First Christian Church followed by the FFOYA House Music and Art Benefit Show. To find out more about these events and others, visit the WKU website.

Reporter Kathryn Ziesig can be reached at at 270-745-6288 and [email protected]