Marshall men take a stand against gender violence — in heels

Members of the Marshall University community walked a mile around campus Thursday, but there is one catch, the men did it in heels. “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” is an international men’s march to bring awareness to, and help prevent, rape, sexual assault and gender violence.

The Marshall University Interfraternity Council, in a joint effort with the university’s Women’s Center, sponsored the walk on campus to bring awareness to relationship violence, sexual assault and stalking.

“We wanted to make students aware of services available on campus,” said Leah Tolliver, the director of the Women’s Center. “We have the Counseling Center, we have the Women’s Center, we have Student Affairs, we have Student Conduct, we have Title IX. All are avenues in which students who have concerns around this issue can seek services and support.”

Matt James, assistant dean of Student Affairs and a member of the Interfraternity Council, said he was impressed to see fraternity men stand up against sexual assault.

“Every 98 seconds someone in this country is sexually assaulted — every 98 seconds,” James said. “The high majority of those cases affect people under the age of 30, so they’re your friends. They’re your family. They’re our students. These things happen here, and I just want to say that I think it is an awesome thing to see our men standing as allies.”

Before the walk began, several leaders of the Marshall community spoke in support of the walk, and in opposition of sexual assault and gender violence.

Student Body President Matt Jarvis said events like this are what bring about change.

“It’s the hard work like this that really has the opportunity to shape not only Marshall’s campus, but really our world,” Jarvis said.

Marshall President Jerry Gilbert also offered words of support for women on campus.

“I support the women on this campus,” Gilbert said, “and I am against any type of violence, particularly sexual violence, against women. And we stand with you and I will do anything I can to assist you.”

Rick Farlow, the vice president of Public Relations for the Interfraternity Council, said he hoped to shed a fresh light on Greek life, referencing the stereotypes Greek life faces, especially in regards to gender violence cases.

“You see what you see in movies. You see what you see in the news, in the media. And a lot of the time, especially with Greek organizations, that’s something that doesn’t shine the best light on Greek communities,” Farlow said. “Marshall is not that type of school.”

Sergeant Scott Ballou of MUPD led the march, which began at the Memorial Student Center Plaza and looped around Third Avenue. Some of the men wore heels as a symbol of truly walking in the shoes of women.

“It’s showing that we take a stand against violence against women,” Ballou said. “Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault, men or women, but with the heels being ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,’ the focus is on the female. It just shows that we take a stand, that violence against women isn’t right, and that we’re showing support (for) those who have been victims or those who are survivors of sexual assault.”

All funds raised by the event will go to CONTACT 24-Hour Rape Crisis Center.