These heels were made for walking to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence Saturday morning.
Hundreds of men and their amused female friends and companions came out to support the third annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event in downtown Modesto. The fundraiser organized by Haven Women’s Center of Stanislaus invites men to, quite literally, walk a mile through city streets while wearing high heels. This year, some 350 men registered to strut, and more than occasionally struggle, several blocks in bright red pumps. Started locally in 2014, the walk has attracted more men each year.
May Rico, executive director of Haven, spoke before the walk and challenged the participants to be the kind of people whom sexual assault and domestic violence survivors can trust and count on in the community. The nonprofit group serves about 2,000 area women and children each year. She said that last year the group helped about 400 survivors of sexual abuse, and half of those were under the age of 18. Often, she said, the hardest thing for victims to do is reach out and tell others about their abuse.
“Every one of you standing here can help to change that,” Rico said. “ ‘Thank you for trusting me,’ those are the words I want you to remember and say to them.”
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Those participating ranged from city dignitaries such as Mayor Ted Brandvold and Councilman Tony Madrigal to motorcycle club members and area college students. But all the men shared the experience of trying to navigate the city streets in stilettos. The shoes were provided for registered participants, in a range of sizes and a few different styles. Some men took the extra precaution of duct taping the heels to their feet.
A large contingent from various Northern California chapters of the Buffalo Soldiers motorcycle club took part. Modesto chapter president Dondi Ceaser said his local group has participated each year, and this year other chapters joined, bringing out some 30 members to complement their black leather riding vests with high heels.
“This is a good cause to give back to the community,” Ceaser said. “We want to help spread the message of nonviolence toward women all around the world.”
This is a good cause to give back to the community. We want to help spread the message of nonviolence toward women all around the world.
Dondi Ceaser, Modesto chapter president of the Buffalo Soldiers motorcycle club
Haven provided signs for walkers that read everything from “Got consent?” to “Rape hurts all of us” and “Sexualized violence is not just a women’s issue.” Many men walked with their young sons, including Modesto resident Nathan Singh. He said he brought his 5-year-old along because “it’s a good cause and a good experience for everyone to participate in.”
Others, such as the group of men from Modesto’s Ambeck Mortgage, came to show support for their female friends and co-workers. Will Patterson and co-worker Derek Snider are the only two men in the mortgage office with a large number of female colleagues. They also wore tutus to walk in the event as a sign of solidarity.
“All of us have people in our lives who have been touched by some form of domestic violence and sexual violence,” Patterson said. “Women’s Haven Center does wonderful work in the community.”
For others, particularly first-time high-heel wearers, the event was an eye-opening and foot-aching look into what some women go through every day.
Modesto resident Reggie Rucker, who owns a social media marketing business in town, walked near the back third of the pack. While he said he felt better the farther he walked, he also admitted, “I thought I’d be in the front leading this. But this is harder than I thought.”
After walking a loop through downtown, men were given medals for participating. While many were relieved to remove their female footwear, they said the momentary pain was worth it.
“I’m happy to sacrifice my toes for this,” said Councilman Madrigal as he limped toward the finish line. “This is nothing compared to the suffering the victims go through.”