Community Solutions and Emmaus House hosted the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event for the first time in San Benito County on Saturday at 11 a.m., at Fourth and San Benito streets.
The event has been held nationally as a way to raise awareness of teen dating and gender violence. Locally, it also served as a fundraiser for Emmaus House.
“We had about 100 different community members come out to be part of the event,” said Erica Elliott, the prevention manager at Community Solutions. “We had about 70 walkers.”
Both men and women participated in the event, many in red high heels.
“We had such a great turn out, especially the first time,” Elliott said. “People came out and had a great attitude and were really supportive of the issue.”
At the event, victims shared their experiences with domestic violence and sexual assault.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of missing facts,” she said. “It happens so much more than what people think.”
Elliott and Debbie Ruiz, of Community Solutions, spoke briefly about the issue of sexual assault and violence at a San Benito County Board of Supervisors meeting in March when they were presented with a proclamation declaring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the county.
“We need to reconfirm our commitment to preventing rape and sexual assault,” said Supervisor Robert Rivas, as he presented the certificate to the pair, “and remember the victims.”
Elliott said Community Solutions had served 62 survivors of sexual assault last year and offered crisis intervention to 102 residents in San Benito County. For the month of April, they have an educational display up at the library and at Gavilan College satellite campuses. The walk on Saturday is a key event in raising awareness of both violence and sexual assault.
“I have a card here and I’d like to challenge the four supervisors to join me,” said Supervisor Margie Barrios, a couple weeks before the event. “I have several pairs of shoes if you’d like to join me.”
During the walk, men were invited to walk a mile in a pair of heels. Women are also invited to participate. The entry was $20 for women or $30 for men, and included a pair of women’s heels.
Elliott shared some statistics at the meeting and in a press release on prevention. According to statistics, about one in four adult women and one in six adult men were sexually abused as a child.
“Parents and guardians can be significant allies in the prevention of child sexual abuse,” the Community Solutions press release stated. “It is never too early to begin having conversations with children.”
They suggested talking to children about the difference between good and bad secrets, and teaching them to share with an adult any secrets that make them uncomfortable.
“The effects of this abuse can be devastating,” the statement read. “If the abuse is not addressed, the effects can appear as substance abuse, eating disorders and suicide attempts as well as putting the individual at increased risk for other harmful behaviors.”
Community Solutions will be involved with the Blue Ribbon Family Fun Walk at the end of April, which promotes awareness of child abuse.
“We will have some child abuse prevention programming,” she said. “Families can learn about good and bad touches, and bullying. It’s all about having a conversation.”
Community Solutions has a 24-hour crisis line at 1-877-363-7238 or residents can visit www.communitysoluttions.org to find out about services provided. Emmaus House has a crisis line at 1-877-778-7978. For more on Emmaus House, 831-636-7224 or visit www.emmaushouse.net.