The men wobbled, laughed and joked – but the red and pink high heels they put on were for a serious cause. On May 1, hundreds of students marched together in solidary against violence, specifically sexual assault.
The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event aimed to demonstrate that sexual assault isn’t just a women’s issue. It’s one for the entire community to address and confront together.
Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education, praised the students for raising awareness about sexual violence and advocating for campus safety.
“As part of this tour of campuses, we don’t often see such a visual display of walking in the shoes of other people. I so appreciate the visual, I so appreciate the commitment from so many of you here,” Lhamon says. “Really, that is what each of us needs to do in the issue of preventing campus sexual assault. We need to walk in each other’s shoes — in women’s shoes, in men’s shoes, in our transgender students’ shoes, in lesbian and gay students’ shoes, in undocumented students’ shoes.”
“The Title IX protections, the protections against sexual violence, apply to all of our students. We need to make that clear, we need to be supportive of all of them, and we need to walk the walk so that we are there in prevention as well as in support when sexual violence happens.”
Lhamon’s visit was part of a nationwide tour of universities by top officials in the Obama administration. Cal Poly Pomona, one of only a dozen schools on the tour, was highlighted as a success in providing a comprehensive community response to sexual assault.
The march drew male participants from the soccer team, fraternities, the Men Against Violence Group, and more. As they paraded from the Violence Prevention & Women’s Resource Center to University Plaza, they chanted “No Means No!” Their signs read “End Violence Against WomenEveryone” and “25% of college age women are raped.”
Christian Murillo, one of the student speakers at the rally, shared how he became an advocate for violence prevention.
“In the beginning, I didn’t think about it. Men don’t necessarily have to think about it. A lot of times women have think about walking at night alone, but I haven’t had that feeling,” Murillo says. “Once I learned about the issue, it triggered a fire. It’s something that affects all men.”
Now, Murillo is a certified sexual assault advocate and a member of the Men Against Violence group. The psychology and gender, ethnic and multicultural studies double major recently completed a year-long research project for McNair Scholars regarding fraternities and risk factors for sexual assault.
The Violence Prevention & Women’s Resource Center organizes dozens of events throughout the year for prevention education and training. The center also provides crisis intervention, counseling and support, and advocacy. Learn more on their website at www.cpp.edu/~oslcc/vpwrc/.