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West // West Oahu News
Christina O’Connor

March Raises Sexual Assault Awareness At UH West Oahu

Nearly 120 men sported red stilettos, decorated slippers and platform sandals and took a walk around the University of Hawaii-West Oahu campus April 9 in an effort to raise awareness about rape, sexual assault and gender violence in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march.

The event was held in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and is part of a string of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes events that take place throughout the year in cities worldwide.

The UHWO march was organized by a committee comprised of its staff from various departments, including the Chancellor’s Office, Kealaikahiki Native Hawaiian Student Support Service, Counseling, Student Development, Campus Facilities, Human Resources and the First-Year Experience program.

More than 150 students, faculty and staff also showed up to cheer on the walkers.

“It was truly a collaborative university effort that helped shed light on an important cause,” declared UH West Oahu student life coordinator Rouel Velasco.

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that there are an average of 237,868 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States alone – meaning that someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes. Victims are overwhelmingly female (nine out of 10 victims) and tend to be young (44 percent are under age 18; 80 percent are under 30). According to the Sex Abuse Treatment Center, 14.2 (or 1 in 7) percent of women in Hawaii has been raped.

While Walk a Mile in Her Shoes has been criticized nationally for marginalizing men’s experience as sexual assault victims and for relying on female stereotypes, Velasco said that the campus response was “overwhelmingly positive” and that it was conducive to achieving the goal of raising awareness.

“One of the problems with stopping rape, sexual assault and gender violence is that people are not willing to discuss the issue openly,” he explained. “Events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes make it easier for people to begin a dialogue and address the role that men play in gender violence.”

During the march, the Sex Abuse Treatment Center and the Domestic Violence Action Center also were present on campus to provide information and resources to those affected by sexual assault and domestic violence.

“The event helped to create a bond between many UHWO students, faculty and staff over the issue of stopping gender violence,” Velasco said.

“Many people were grateful to the men who put aside their inhibitions and walked in heels as a show of solidarity and support.”

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