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PRINCETON — Michelle Spears is looking for more than just a few good men to take a stand against violence on May 18 for Freedom House’s first annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, a men’s march against violence.
The event, to be 1-4 p.m. May 18 at Soldiers and Sailor’s Park in Princeton is for men, individually or as teams, to raise sponsorship funds for literally walking one mile in women’s shoes as a way to get the conversation started about violence and gender roles.
Spears is quick to point out, however, while the shoes are a fun way to participate, wearing them is not a requirement.
“We have some teams having fun with it,” she said, “they’re going all out with costumes, but the important part is just showing up.”
The march will be a family-friendly event, with food, music, a bounce house and games for the kids as well. This allows families to introduce the conversation to children in a not frightening, non-threatening way.
Although the event itself is in good fun, the statistics behind it are sobering: one in four women will experience violence in the home and one in six will be a victim of sexual assault at some point in their lives.
Spears, as the community development coordinator for Freedom House in Princeton, wants people to understand the impact of these statistics on their own lives.
“This is a community problem. Even if it’s not taking place in your house, chances are you know someone who is a victim.”
Spears said violence in the home often is a hidden problem, and people don’t want to think anyone they know could be involved.
“If you know four women,” said Spears, “then statistically speaking, you know someone this is happening to.”
Walk A Mile In Her Shoes will be the biggest fundraiser of the year for Freedom House, which is the sole women and children’s safe shelter in Bureau, Marshall, Putnam, Henry and Stark counties.
Spears put that in perspective:
“We cover an area twice the size of Rhode Island and we are the only shelter within the entire five-county area.”
The facility provides safe emergency shelter for women and children, transitional shelter for up to two years, counseling and a place for women to become empowered to take control of their own lives.
“They come in and they’ve been completely powerless,” Spears said. “They’ve probably had very little opportunity to make choices for themselves; we offer them that guidance.”
Freedom House offers its services at all hours, every day of the year at no cost to clients. In addition, it provides outreach services to those who can’t come to the shelter. Funding for the shelter comes from the state. However, there’s a definite need for donations and volunteers to keep the organization running, which is why Walk A Mile In Her Shoes is so important to the shelter and the community, Spears said.
“This is a good opportunity to do what you can to raise funds in a fun, memorable way,” said Spears. “For men this is an opportunity to say this (violence against women) is unacceptable.”
There is no cost to preregister for the event; individuals or teams registering the day of the event will be asked for a $20 donation since they will not have the advance time to solicit donations. Awards will be presented to the individual with the most sponsorships and the team with the most sponsorships. To resister, call Freedom House at (815) 872-0087.
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