Students walk for awareness of sexual assault

Emily Banks

The Washington Avenue Bridge looked more daunting than usual for the men who dared to cross it in heels Thursday.

As a kickoff to Sexual Assault Awareness Month, members of the Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education offered cookies, buttons, information and a pair of high heels at the east end of the bridge.

Megan Alama, an intern for the Aurora Center, waved students and passers-by to the table.

“When have you ever had seven women cheering you on to wear heels?” she asked Lief Mattila, a first-year sociology student.

The group encouraged University community members to walk the bridge in heels to increase awareness of the high rates of violence against women, Aurora legal advocate and co-coordinator Liz Borer said.

“We understand people are in a hurry and between classes; we don’t want to bombard them,” she said.

But Mattila took the time. He dropped his bag and exchanged his tennis shoes for a pair of black pumps – so small his heels hung off the edges.

Take a Walk in Her Shoes organizers donated the shoes for the event. Two-thirds of the men chose pink satin pumps over the other choices, said Alama, a sociology and English senior.

The Aurora Center intends to reach both men and women this month, Borer said.

“We have always taken the approach that men and women need to work together to end violence against women,” Borer said.

With the collaboration of intercollegiate athletics and Housing and Residential Life, national speaker Keith Edwards will come to the University to talk about men’s role in ending rape and encourage men and women to change the rape culture on campus, Borer said.

“We’ve had a history of successful collaborations with athletics to bring in male-oriented speakers,” she said.

In the two hours the group spent at the bridge, 12 students put on the high heels.

“They were all supportive and thanked us for the work the Aurora Center does,” Borer said.

Mattila’s walk in the heels ended after several awkward steps around the bridge.

“I don’t know how people do this,” he said.

The Aurora Center plans to increase awareness throughout the month at various events, including the showing of a documentary by Angela Shelton. In the documentary, Shelton sets out to take an informal poll by finding the other people named Angela Shelton in the country and discovers 24 of 40 (now 28 of 40) of them had been sexually abused, Borer said.

Other events will include a conference on child trafficking, a performance portraying beaten immigrant women in the Twin Cities and Take Back the Night, a rally and march against the violence and fear some women face.