Some are pointy.

Some are tall.

Some are sparkly.

Some are small.

Women’s shoes come in all shapes and sizes. But as long as the men gathered Wednesday were wearing them, females cheered them on.

In jeans, ties or uniforms, the men were walking a mile in her shoes, the second annual event hosted by the Clatsop County Women’s Resource Center as part of sexual assault awareness month.

“It’s a big metaphor for what victims have to go through, by painfully putting on their shoes and walking a few blocks,” Seaside Police Chief Bob Gross said, dressed in a pair of black flats with rhinestones on the toes. “But I think it sends the message that not only the community, but law enforcement supports the victims and is clearly against sexual assault and child abuse as well.

“It’s our opportunity to step up to the plate and do something that some may view as silly, but it really sends the message that we’re not afraid to be silly to send the message that we’re against abuse.”

The group of approximately 10 males, including Gross and Cannon Beach Police Chief Justin Schermerhorn, walked with about 20 supportive women, including victims, families, Circuit Court Judge Paula Brownhill and Women’s Resource Center Executive Director Julie Soderberg.

Soderberg said the event was important for both men and women.

“I think it is so amazing that we have men in the community that recognize the effects of sexual violence,” she said. “More often than not, a lot of men are also survivors themselves and it’s good to honor that as well.”

The group gathered at the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Department, paused in front of the Clatsop County Courthouse for a proclamation read by City Councilwoman Karen Mellin, and then marched to Déjà Vu, the thrift shop owned by the Women’s Resource Center.

It was there that a survivor of sexual assault, who requested her name not be printed, tearfully shared her story, making the march for men in heels seem like a cakewalk compared to what she has been through.

“My story begins at the age of 2, when my babysitter’s father took my innocence,” she said. “He only served 10 years for his crime, but in my opinion, he deserved a life sentence. Because what he did started my lifetime sentence of pain. And then again at 4 years old, this time I was old enough to remember. Again at 7, then at 10, at 14 I was raped. Then 19, then 20.

“You see these are not strangers. They were people who I knew and my family knew. I am only one story in millions that are reported. My hope is that by speaking today, I can and will inspire others to feel safe enough to seek help and experience spiritual freedom.”

The survivor said she didn’t start her healing until about year ago when she came to the Women’s Resource Center. Forgiveness is not for the other person, she said she has learned, but is for her. Some days are harder than others, she said, but she is grasping forgiveness and her life back into her control. The chains of her past, she said, are no longer holding her back.

This woman is a mother and had advice for other parents out there.

“Talk to your children. Open your eyes and your minds. Talk about things that no parent wants to talk about, but has to in this day and age,” she said tearfully. “We live in a world where crimes against children are on the rise. Talk about inappropriate touches, saying no, and most importantly, let your children feel safe enough that they can talk to you about anything. Always assure them that you are there for them.”

Michael Crowe, a counselor with Choices Counseling, wearing a stunning pair of black strappy sandals, also spoke to those gathered.

“You should be proud of yourselves,” Crowe said to the walkers. “We should all be proud of the men that are taking a stand against sexual assault. The majority of sexual violence is perpetrated by males, whether the victim is female or male and that’s what the research shows. That’s what’s happening.”

Crowe and his wife often offer free services to clients from the Women’s Resource Center, Community Programs Manager Kathryn Burr with the Center said, and have been great partners and supporters of victims.

“I work primarily with men that are sometimes frustrated or get angry with their female partners when there is difficulty with trust or intimacy, because she’s been sexually assaulted in the past,” Crowe said. “They’re saying, ‘Hey, I didn’t do this, why do I have to pay for this?’ Well, it’s not about paying for it. When we’re in a relationship with a woman who has been sexually assaulted, we take on a greater responsibility for that person. This person has been victimized. It’s not about something that’s happening to you guys. It’s something that we need to be sensitive to and I guarantee that if you are sensitive to it, rather than moving away from you, your partner is going to get closer to you.”

Crowe also commented on the images in the media and “locker room talk” that demeans or objectifies women, encouraging men to say “that’s not cool” when faced with conversations or jokes of that type.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault will only stop when men like yourselves take a stand and prevent, use your voice. Not just on the walk, but everyday of the year,” Crowe said.

Statistics show one of every three girls and one of every six boys has been or will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18 years old.

“When males or females are sexually assaulted or raped, it’s not just their bodies that are taken, it’s the trust, the security, magic, innocence,” Sexual Assault Specialist Sharon Beatteay said. “Everything is robbed from them.”



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