Miami Students Walk to Fight Against Rape and Sexual Assault

Miami University’s Women’s Empowerment Week presented by Miami’s Panhellenic Association came to an end Friday afternoon on Cook Field in the seventh annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.” The event is usually organized by campus organizations, Women Against Violence and Sexual Assault (WAVES) and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault (MARS), but this year the event was hosted by WAVES, MARS and Alpha Chi Omega.

During this event, women are encouraged to walk alongside women from other sorority chapters and outside the Greek community to stand up against rape and sexual assault, and support women everywhere who have fallen victim to these crimes.

According to statistics from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), there is an average of 207,754 victims of sexual assault each year, with someone being sexually assaulted every two minutes. 80 percent of rape and sexual assault victims are under the age of 30, making college-age students the main victims.

If this wasn’t bad enough, 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. To fight this statistic, help women know they aren’t alone and make people more aware of rape and sexual assault are the main goals of "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes", said WAVES president Kate Van Fossen.

“It’s just one of those things that is uncomfortable to talk about and it’s easy for people to just turn their heads and forget that it is an issue,” Van Fossen said. “But with events like this and raising awareness, we just hope that it encourages open conversations about sexual assault and hopes to reduce the numbers of sexual assault.”

WAVES has found other ways to speak out against sexual abuse, winning the RAINN Day Multimedia Contest last year. Check out WAVES’s attention-grabbing video in this article by Cosmopolitan.

Women are not the only ones who take part in “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.”

What makes this event meaningful, yet fun, is the men who voluntarily participate in the event, walking a mile in women’s heels as a stand against sexual violence.

MARS, a student organization made up of 10-18 men on campus, take a stand against an issue that has, for many years, been perceived as only a women’s issue. MARS president Tony Hausfeld and his team educate Miami men by giving presentations to dorms, fraternities and male sports teams with facts about rape and sexual assault.

MARS has partnered with WAVES the past seven years in this event as an effort to make more men involved in preventing sexual abuse, and to help them understand that what they might think is okay to do with a girl in an uptown bar is actually not okay.

“It’s not just what are girls doing to stay safe and be safe, it’s what can guys do to step in and do in a possibly dangerous situation or you know, just letting them know legal definitions because maybe they don’t think they’re doing something wrong when by legal definition they are,” Hausfeld said. “So, just making it a men’s issue and not just a women’s issue is I think our main cause for this.”

Although these statistics may sound grim, campus and national action against sexual abuse has helped the total number of victims to drop. According to RAINN statistics, sexual assault has fallen by more than 60 percent.

Miami students will continue fighting to lower this statistic even more tonight in the annual “Take Back The Night” march against rape and sexual assault.

The FWord: Feminists Working on Real Democracy will organize Speakout Sessions for students, faculty, staff and community members to attend at 7 p.m. in the Bystrom-Reid Room before the march. All who attend will have a safe place to speak in small groups about their personal experiences with sexual assault.

Following this hour-long session, everyone – those in the Speakouts and everyone who couldn’t make it – are welcome to meet behind Shriver to start the march that breaks the silence about sexual abuse.

Don’t forget to check out the event’s Facebook page, and make sure to grab as many girls and guys as you can to join in the fight against rape and sexual assault.