Close to 50 students marched around a snowy Eastman quad on Saturday shouting phrases like “a dress is not a yes” at this year’s “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” event, organized by UR SEGway.
Some wore high heels and others carried signs that read, “Stop, Ask, Clarify,” and “TimesUP,” reflecting the campus climate in light of the controversy over sexual misconduct last semester.
The event aims to raise awareness through its resource fair, display support for survivors in the form of a mile walk, and raise funds to combat sexual abuse.
“We just want to make sure that everyone’s aware that this happens to all types of people,” said sophomore Jess Silverstein, SEGway’s publicity and outreach chair. “Due to white privilege, this is going to be happening to people of color, and minorities such as deaf people, way more.”
A new addition to the event, which is in its fifth year, saw members of SEGway reading aloud anonymous quotes collected from on-campus survivors.
“Sometimes before we went to sleep, he would spit into his hand and wipe it on my face and make me leave it on while I slept, saying he liked knowing that he had ‘marked his territory’ […] He made my sexual needs so unimportant that I thought I didn’t deserve to have them anymore,” one club member read.
“When I was reading my quote, around the middle of it, I just had a millisecond of an urge to close my eyes and break down on the spot,” sophomore Tanamaya Dahiye said. “It’s really hard to think about what it must have been like.”
First-year Lindsey Goodhough acknowledged discomfort while reading a survivor statement: “And that’s the thing, it’s hard for us to read those quotes, but it should be hard,” she said. “It wasn’t easy for them, and it shouldn’t be easy for us or anyone else hearing it.”
SEGway hosted representatives from Willow Domestic Violence Center, Ignite, and Saathi of Rochester. Representatives from Restore, Public Safety and UCC were also in attendance
SEGway raised a total of $740, and all of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Willow, Ignite, and Saathi.
Willow is the only state-certified domestic violence service provider within Monroe County. Ignite is a center that specifically helps the deaf and hard of hearing, and Saathi, a non-profit, helps Southeast Asian people struggling with sexual and domestic abuse.
In between performances by the Midnight Ramblers, Vocal Point, and Louvre, representatives from the organizations, with the exception of Ignite, addressed the students in attendance, giving speeches about their respective organizations while also providing general factoids about sexual abuse.
“We work with the Southeast Asian community who are experiencing sexual violence. We help them rebuild their lives,” said Raje Sathasivam, a co-director of Saathi. “We provide them with help, we link them with social services, legal help, safe housing. We make them aware of the community they are living in.”
Sophomore Catherine Waye, the event’s chair, made the last remarks before the walk.
“I know that many of you are here today are upset [and] feel unsafe due to recent developments regarding our administration here at UR,” she said. “But I believe that the fact that you are here instead of merely just sharing your opinion speaks volumes. We have the capacity and right to affect change where we see injustice because this is our community and no one can take that away from us.”
After the walk, when some exchanged their high-heeled pumps and stilettos for their original shoes, senior Sean Corcoran reflected on why his fraternity’s attendance was critical.
“We felt it was way more important to show up and actually have it be an impactful and educational experience than to just voice our opinions in passing conversation on campus,” he said. “It’s far more than a gesture when you see people here who work at Willow, who work at other organizations. It blows you away how much support there is on a broader scale. And if we can do our part to learn more about that, [we can] hopefully spread the message.”