Volunteers 'walk a mile in her shoes' to raise awareness, money for sexual assault programs

GBMC hosts first Walk a Mile in Her Shoes' event to raise awareness, money for sexual assault programs.

Nathan Clark had trouble finding red heels in size 13.

The 20-year-old Stevenson University senior tried Payless, and then Target. Finally, he settled for a pair of shiny black pumps to wear Saturday morning for GBMC Healthcare's Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence.

"The pain went away," Clark, a business administration major from Baltimore, said after the walk. "It's a numbing feel."

He was one of more than 150 walkers who strolled a mile around the hospital's Towson campus. Some wore three-inch heels; others chose classic sneakers. The event, one of several in the area to raise awareness during Sexual Assault Month, netted more than $31,000 for GBMC's Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and domestic violence programs.

SAFE, which makes nurses and victim advocates available around the clock to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, is the only program of its kind in Baltimore County.

It serves about 430 victims — walk-ins and referrals from police, physicians or hospitals — each year, according to forensic nurse Laura Clary, the SAFE clinical program manager. The staff provides exams, crisis counseling, referrals to community programs and legal assistance, she said. All the services are free.

Clary said Saturday's event highlighted topics — domestic violence and sexual assault — that can be difficult for people to talk about.

"It's about bringing awareness," she said. "The only way to do that is to open a discussion."

Dr. Fred Chan, chief medical information officer for GBMC, completed the walk, sat on a curb, took off his heels and put on his tennis shoes.

"I came through unscathed," he said. "It was fun and it's a great cause."

Chan said everyone knows someone who has been affected by domestic violence or sexual assault.

Though many participants slipped on more comfortable shoes after the walk, Clark said he would stick it out in his heels until he got back to his car.

He said he heard about the walk through university's Male Initiative Leadership & Excellence program. Clark said he chose to participate in the event because women close to him have suffered from domestic violence.

"The cause is definitely important," he said. He felt it was especially important for men to show their support in recognizing the issue and to help raise awareness.

Also Saturday, activists organized an event in Station North to recognize International Anti-Street Harassment Week.

Hollaback! Baltimore encourages victims of harassment on the street to post pictures and map and document incidents of harassment online. The group invited attendees to "wear something you've been harassed in."

Several woman shared their experiences being harassed all over the city on the Hollaback! website.

A woman who identified herself as "Anna" said a man groped her as she waited to cross the street near the area of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Howard Street.

"I wanted to go after him and mace him but the only thing I did was quickly walk away in the other direction and cry," she wrote. "I felt so embarrassed and stupid."

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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