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Men to walk against domestic violence

Abi Hoverman | Thursday, October 10, 2013

This Saturday, more than 100 local men will don three-inch, red high-heels and walk through downtown South Bend for “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” to raise awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault and raise money for the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA).

Amanda Ceravolo, director of development and communications for the North Central Indiana YWCA shelter, said the event, officially titled the YWCA’s “Men’s March to End Violence against Women,” offers men the opportunity to show solidarity for women who have been victims of violence, which is a community-wide issue.

“Men really do want to be involved and are looking for ways to help,” Ceravolo said. “It’s also about showing that men can be and are vital parts of the solution to the problem.”

Ceravolo said October, which is domestic violence awareness month, offers the perfect opportunity for such an event to begin dialogues about the issue and resources available locally.

One fact to consider is that every nine seconds a woman in the United States is beaten or assaulted, she said.

“All men come out and for different reasons, but we always remind [people that] one in four women can be a victim of sexual assault,” Ceravolo said. “This could be your wife, your mom, your sister, your daughter. Anyone can be impacted by violence against women.”

According to the Indiana Coalition against Domestic Violence, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, with more victims than car accidents, mugging, and rapes combined.

The YWCA of North Central Indiana is the largest service provider for sexual assault and domestic violence victims in the area, Ceravolo said, and serves over 1,500 women and children each year from St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties.

“The vast majority of people staying here are fleeing from violence in their lives,” she said.

Funds raised by the walk will specifically benefit domestic violence and sexual assault programs, including the “New Hope” treatment program, which provides counseling for victims of rape, sexual assault, incest, and sexual abuse, gives immediate shelter to victim, and fosters community outreach programs. Another important program that benefits from the annual walk is “CourtWatch,” which monitors domestic violence cases in county courts to help victims.

Ceravolo said other rape centers nationally participate in similar “Walk a Mile” events, now in their fourth year. She said in the past, the walks have raised significant and needed funds, which comes both from registration fees and money collected by the men around the route.

“A lot of money comes in the day of. In the past we’ve raised between $15,000 and $20,000 for every year we’ve been [doing] it,” she said. “We thought that it would be a great and fun way to engage men in the mission of the YWCA.”

Ceravolo said this year, the event was moved to downtown South Bend from Coveleski Stadium to encourage local businesses to participate, many of whom will have tables out with food and coupons for the male participants.

Male Notre Dame students annually participate in “Walk a Mile in her Shoes,” represented by a team organized by the student club Men against Violence (MAV). She said the enthusiastic men ran the course last year in their heels.

“They have been represented in all of our walks,” she said. “We absolutely love it. They contacted us the first year and wanted to get involved, and we said absolutely, we want you there.”

Senior Jack Toscano, former president of MAV, said participating in the event follows the club’s mission of ending sexual and domestic violence at Notre Dame and in the greater community.

“‘Walk a Mile’ gave us a chance to both branch out and help the South Bend community,” Toscano said. “Violence against women is extremely relevant, especially in light of the recent reported sexual assaults. There is no excuse for that being a part of the Notre Dame community.”

Toscano, who plans to participate in the event for his second time this Saturday, said the walk could be fun too.

“The heels were very awkward at first,” he said. “You gain an appreciation for how much heels suck.”

The event will take place this Saturday, Oct. 12 at 10 a.m, starting at the College Football Hall of Fame Gridiron. Ceravolon said those interested in participating should preregister online at ywcda.org/wam to secure their correct shoe size for the walk. Event registration will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, with minimum donations of $50 or $35 for students. Notre Dame students can also reach out to MAV to join their team.