For the first time, the Westmoreland County Blackburn Center is holding its annual Walk A Mile in Their/His/Her/Our Shoes event virtually. The event takes place Wednesday, April 7 to Saturday, April 10. Those who are interested need to complete a required registration online and are asked to contribute a $5 donation if possible.
The aim of the event is to help others “take a stand while staying close to home,” according to the Blackburn Center’s website. To maintain safety during COVID-19, there is no designated location for everyone to meet and walk together. However, their flyer says the walk will take place in “various locations around Westmoreland County,” to support the community. As individuals, everyone can decide when, where, and how they will walk the mile.
The Blackburn Center has expanded its logo on the flyer for the event to include all survivors, no matter their gender, because men, women, and non-binary individuals can experience violence.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “one in 4 women and one in 10 men experience Intimate Partner Violence.” They also list the different forms of abuse, which includes physical, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuse, and explain that sexual assault and domestic violence are critical issues across “all races, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, socioeconomic classes, and religions.”
The Blackburn Center encourages men to wear high heeled shoes to promote the literal term of “walking in her shoes,” and women and non-binary participants to walk in their own shoes, supporting one another.
By walking a mile with a team, individuals can spread awareness of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Participants can post pictures and videos with captions to share the event’s significance and the reason why they’re walking.
Participants can also add the hashtag #WalkBlackburn to their posts, share the location of the mile they walked, and discuss the additional activities they participated in to take action. These activities are listed along with suggested Westmoreland County trails on the Blackburn Center’s website.
Domestic violence and sexual assault is an international issue that has increased since the beginning of the pandemic. There is a strong correlation between the two events, and historical evidence demonstrates that this correlation may equal causation.
According to the Center for Primary Care at Harvard Medical School, “evidence shows that rates of sexual violence increase during states of emergency.” They found that call increments to the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence in the United States increased by nearly 40 percent, and there was an 18 percent increase in calls to domestic violence crisis centers in Spain.
Dr. Sheila Confer, director of the Academic Village and instructor in Theatre Arts and First Year Studies, is a former board member of the Blackburn Center and involved in its Social Transformation Committee, as well as a member of the Wellness and Resilience Instruction Team at Pitt-Greensburg.
Last semester, Dr. Confer explained to The Insider the many services available at the Blackburn Center, and it is the main resource she recommends to students when they need help regarding issues of violence or abuse.
Gayle Pamerleau, director of Counseling, also provided The Insider advice on how to approach problems of violence, especially for those who are witnesses rather than victims. Students can find this information here, in The Insider’s volume 13, issue 2.
The Blackburn Center encourages people to also take the pledge to apply efforts to ending gender-based violence in their community. The pledge includes a promise to not use violence as means to any situation or as a treatment towards any person. Additionally, the pledge states individuals who are aware of abuse happening have a responsibility and moral duty not to remain silent.
“Some wear high heels, while others prefer sneakers. Some carry signs, and others walk without signs,” the Blackburn Center website says. “One thing they all have in common is a desire to speak out against gender violence.”