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Community walk to raise awareness of sexualized violence against women

By Staff | Sep 7, 2017

Police and firefighters participate in Walk a Mile in Her Shoes each year.

LAHAINA – The community is invited to support Women Helping Women and raise awareness about domestic violence at the sixth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Outlets of Maui.

In the event, men walk a couple of laps in high heels to help raise awareness of domestic violence, and by their participation avow that it is not okay to hit women and children.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is an international men’s march that is organized independently in different cities around the world.

Amanda Derakhshan, West Maui services coordinator for Women Helping Women, said, “It’s designed to raise awareness about the difficult-to-talk-about subject of sexualized violence against women, which often co-occurs in situations of domestic violence. Having a large group of men totter around in high heels and matching shirts is symbolic of men being able to understand and better appreciate women’s experiences, and it gives the community a lighter way to open up communication about the serious issues behind the walk.

“Before they march, the men actually recite a pledge promising not to commit, condone or remain silent about domestic abuse and other forms of abuse against women. The organizers, the wonderful West Maui Task Force, make it their mission to also provide entertainment and fun activities as well as prizes, so that the event itself is memorable,” she continued.

“The hope is that attendees will have such a great time that later they’ll reminisce; and, when they do, they’ll also remember why they came out in the first place. Walkers are encouraged to bring along their family and friends, so that they can also enjoy the event but more so that they can witness these men taking a stand and speaking out against violence against women.”

Shoes will be provided. WHW and its West Maui Task Force seek husbands, boyfriends, girls, boys, women – everyone – to participate.

This year’s walk will feature live music by Fred’s Garage and Darren Lee of Lahaina’s “Burn’n Love” show, a Zumba warmup with Keoni of Hot Lava Dance Fit, face painter and balloon twister.

There will be a new route this year; walkers will head out to Front Street and circle back around instead of doing laps within the outlets themselves.

Entertainer Cirque Jolie will walk the same path on stilts to add to the spectacle of red-shirted, high-heeled marchers, and everyone in attendance – not just the men – will be encouraged to do the laps together and cheer for the walkers.

There will be a photo booth by 808PhotoBombs for attendees to have a unique, tangible memory to take home.

Check-in and registration will start at 8 a.m. The $20 entry fee includes a commemorative goodie bag, event T-shirt, free parking, prize ticket and merchant discounts.

The task force hopes walkers will wear their event shirts and use goodie bag items printed by Williams & Associates in their daily lives to remind themselves what they walked for and to spur conversation with friends and family.

There will be awards for best costume, largest donation and most sponsors. According to WHW, some of the men like to take it to the next level and get fully dolled up to match their heels.

For information, or to register, visit www.WomenHelpingWomenMaui.com or call Maria at 669-5200.

There is an early-bird prize drawing (to encourage advance registration) that can be completed online. With a cash prize of $100 up for grabs, the draw is open to the first 100 registrants.

Also available online is a pledge form that walkers can use to collect pledge money from sponsors – another great way to get people talking about domestic violence and the walk.

This year’s goal is to raise $10,000 to fund transportation to pick up items donated to Women Helping Women and support the West Maui Client Assistance Fund.

The fund is money allocated to assist residents of West Maui who have experienced domestic violence and need financial help, whether for housing, child care, transportation, education – even grocery or gas money.

Requests for assistance go through WHW’s Transitions Program, which is dedicated to helping victims get back on their feet after leaving an abusive relationship.

Women Helping Women’s mission is “to end domestic violence through advocacy, education and prevention; and to offer safety, support and empowerment to women and children, victims of domestic violence.”

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is an opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediations to violence against women.

Before the walk, a speaker gives a brief introduction to the crisis of sexual and domestic abuse to everyone in attendance, and then the walkers all recite the pledge avowing to never condone or commit any acts of abuse.

According to the task force, both speaking and hearing those words spoken aloud sends a powerful message, because it’s not often that people talk so plainly about these kinds of issues – especially not in public.

Equally important, the benefit gets people talking about domestic violence – a serious problem on Maui.

Maui Police Department reported 4,459 cases and 787 arrests in 2016, with 733 abuse-related incidents in West Maui.

“The problems of sexual and domestic abuse on Maui is likely as big here as it is anywhere, but it’s always impossible to know exactly how big, because not all victims come forward and report the abuse,” Derakhshan explained.

“Homelessness, loss of jobs, financial hardship, drug abuse – all these problems are so prevalent in Hawaii and only add to the stress in families and can result in more cases of domestic abuse. Agency-wide, WHW writes around 50 TROs (temporary restraining orders) a month, but if you look at the number of calls MPD answers about abuse of family, the numbers don’t correspond.”

Victims may hesitate to seek help for a number of reasons.

There is stigma and victim-blaming; victims believe they will be blamed for bringing on the abuse – “She asked for it.” Or, “She had it coming.”

The abuser could be the main breadwinner, and the victim feels she won’t be able to survive on her own.

There are emotional reasons, such as still loving the abuser despite his criminal behavior and continuing to stay in the hopes that he will change.

Victims may be fearful of having their children taken away or feel they don’t want to break up the family.

“Too often victims don’t seek help because they don’t realize that what they’re enduring is wrong – against the law, even – and they don’t know that help is available. And, finally, victims stay because they’re too afraid to leave, because the abuser has actually threatened to hurt or even kill them and their families,” Derakhshan added.

Women Helping Women’s Lahaina office (661-7111) exists predominantly so that residents of West Maui can file for temporary restraining orders without having to drive to the courthouse in Wailuku. The office can fax petitions in and save residents the long drive.

Derakhshan said, “We also offer support services for victims of domestic violence and provide information and referrals to other agencies and services in Maui. Just as in Wailuku, however, we cannot offer legal advice. The office also doesn’t accept donations for residents of the shelter and the ReVive Boutique in Kahului; those are all redirected to 5A Rent-a-Space.”

According to the task force, anyone participating in or watching the walk will learn that it takes a village to stop something so pervasive as sexual and domestic violence, that everyone needs to come forward and say that these abuses need to stop in order for change to happen, and that there are resources in the community, like Women Helping Women, who are there to help victims and provide support and information to anyone with questions about domestic violence and healthy relationships.

Derakhshan said residents and businesses can help address the issue of domestic violence in the community by making it their goal to practice healthy relationships in their own homes and workplaces.

“They can teach their children that violence and abusive behavior – including emotional, psychological, verbal and financial – doesn’t have a place in their lives. At the workplace, managers and owners can make an effort to let their employees know that they’ll support them if they’re experiencing abuse at home or in a relationship and be prepared to offer them resources like WHW’s domestic violence hotline number or the office number, so they can file for a TRO. For this reason, it’s important that business leaders are aware of the resources available in the community,” she noted.

“Finally, they can make an effort to support agencies like WHW and others, and to do so publicly, so that everyone – their clientele, their employees, their families, friends, etc. – will know that they oppose domestic violence and are willing to come out and say so to the world.”