Fraternities seek to change culture through Walk a Mile event
- Author: Aurelia Spaulding
- Author: Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019
“I know the type of problems that occur on college campuses. I know how easily it (sexual assault) goes under the rug, but that is not OK. And, if everyone just kind of blatantly accepts it, it’s just going to keep happening,” said Jared Downey, WKU student from Louisville. Downey serves as the Director of Activities for the Interfraternity Council and leads the coordination of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes™ taking place at 3 p.m. Wednesday (April 3) at WKU Centennial Mall.
“So, taking this walk every year is a way for us to take a stand against something that is happening in our own community,” Downey continued.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes™ takes place across the country, and 2019 marks the ninth year students in the Interfraternity Council (IFC) have joined together to organize the event at WKU to benefit Hope Harbor, a sexual trauma recovery center in Bowling Green. The Interfraternity Council is a council with representatives from each fraternity, and nine students serve on the executive team at WKU. The Walk a Mile event involves fraternity members walking in red high heels from Centennial Mall up and around campus to Cherry Hall.
While onlookers may find it amusing to see the fraternity members struggle in red heels, the students participating understand the seriousness of the event and their role in addressing sexual assault on campus.
“We, as fraternity men, we want to promote that we stand in solidarity with all women on campus and want to educate our fellow fraternity men on these facts and statistics that seek to promote women coming out in the community and standing up and speaking up on any incident that happens to them on and around campus,” said Wood Brown, IFC president and WKU student from Princeton.
Downey with support from Brown and Kody Okert, IFC Vice President of Recruitment, led event planning for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes™. During the planning process for Walk a Mile, Downey (Phi Delta Theta fraternity member), Brown (Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity member), Okert (Kappa Sigma fraternity member) and others attended chapter and council meetings for different fraternities and sororities. In the meetings, they discussed the topic of sexual assault, support for Hope Harbor, and participation with Walk a Mile.
“Sexual assault and rape on college campuses is one of the worse things somebody can do to a person. I actually believe that if fraternity men from all across the country stood up to raise awareness it would minimize the number of rapes and sexual assault we see each year,” Okert said.
To participate, fraternity members give $25 each or $150 for a team of 10. In addition, sororities could sponsor an individual member or team. “Phi Mu Sorority sponsored Kappa Sigma Fraternity to have a second team,” Okert said in sharing examples of sorority participation this year.
Downey added, “All the money goes to Hope Harbor, in our own community. It affects the women in our own community. It helps people in our own community.”
“Money donated to Hope Harbor is used to provide services for those affected by sexual violence,” said Londa Stockton, Hope Harbor Community Educator. “Hope Harbor provides counseling services, medical and legal advocacy, community education and prevention and volunteer opportunities.”
“Services provided by Hope Harbor are free to community and are funded by in part at the federal and state levels. Donations made to Hope Harbor ensure that more community members can receive services,” Stockton said.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes™ is one of two Sexual Assault Prevention Month events with a WKU student leading the planning, and it is the only event planned by a student organization based on the 2019 Sexual Assault Prevention Month activities calendar. There are several ways for individuals to support students affected by sexual assault and Hope Harbor without planning an event though.
“One of the ways that anyone can support Hope Harbor and sexual assault prevention is the help make a culture that supports survivors and takes a stand against violence.” Stockton said. “We can do this by checking in with friends, making sure friends get home safely, speaking up when we hear victim blaming comments or rape jokes.”
Stockton added that Hope Harbor is available to speak to chapters and other groups on campus. They also accept volunteers.
According to Andrew Rash, Student Activities Coordinator and IFC Advisor, $2,500 was collected in 2018 from Walk a Mile in Her Shoes™.