Gray skies did not put a damper on the festive atmosphere at Westminster City Park Saturday as more than 100 people gathered in support of Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County’s Walk a Mile in Their Shoes fundraiser.
Wearing a variety of shoes, from the event’s signature red stilettos to red flats, platform shoes and leopard heels, men of all ages hobbled down Westminster’s Main Street as cars honked, people waved and cameras flashed.
“We’ll see how many steps these shoes last,” said Brian Frazier, as he shifted his weight from foot to foot. “I can do a mile in these.”
Devon Lesniack made it about halfway through the walk when he stepped aside to change shoes.
“They’re just the wrong size,” Lesniack said, as someone yelled, “Good effort, man!”
Saturday marked the 14th time the Carroll County agency hosted the fundraising walk, and it was the first in-person event in two years. While the event is a fundraiser, typically raising about $25,000, its main focus is raising awareness of sexual violence, according to Dotty Dalphon, executive director of Rape Crisis Intervention Service.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, one of six American women has been the victim of rape. About 82% of all juvenile rape victims are female, and 90% of adult rape victims are female.
Men are also victims of sexual violence, Dalphon noted. About 1 in 33 American men have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.
“Sexual violence” is a broad umbrella term encompassing rape, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and more.
The event encourages people to walk in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence and funds raised support the confidential, free services Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County offers area residents.
“It’s a big event for us,” Dalphon said. “Men, women and families get together and show support for victims of sexual assault.”
As people registered, they received a T-shirt and the opportunity to wear a pair of “the iconic high heel shoes” that are “so important to the event,” Dalphon said.
“It is a nice remembrance for people to see them and have the experience of walking in them,” Dalphon said.
“We have 11, 12, 13 — all huge sizes,” said volunteer Carol Will. “I am surprised how many guys said ‘thank you, I brought my own.’”
Carroll County State’s Attorney Allan Culver brought his own pair of red flats he bought at Walmart.
“I am happy to show my support,” Culver said. “It is great to do it in person again.”
Terry Smack, owner of Terry’s Tag and Title, was able to get a team of 19 together for their first time participating in the walk.
“I’ve always worked Saturday and after 20 years, I got the day off,” Smack said, laughing. “We decided to do this. There is a need to get the word out there.”
William Hall arrived from Virginia to participate in the walk with Fran Bartels of Hampstead. He was having difficulty finding a pair of shoes that fit.
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“Apparently my feet are smaller than I thought,” Hall said, as he traded in a pair of red shoes for another. A runner, he was surprised at how difficult it was to walk in the shoes and the various muscles affected.
“It hurts,” Hall said.
No sooner was the walk done than Lance Griffin had his heels off and his orange Crocs on.
“I don’t see how ladies do it,” he said.
At the end of the walk, participants were able to enjoy free pizza and Rita’s Italian ice.
“We’ve been doing this every year for them,” said Troy Lochner, Genova’s owner. “It is fun to see the guys in their high heels. It’s hilarious.”
For more information on Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County, visit rapecrisiscc.org. Call the 24-Hour Hotline at 410-857-7322 to speak with an advocate and get information on options they have to help.