Hunter Brown, a 21-yr-old US Army veteran, joined 23 people to take a one-mile walk beginning at Converse’s Rainey Amphitheatre on a bright Saturday morning. It was the first “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event at Converse College, a student-organized branch of the international men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence.
“Honestly, when I was little I lived through situations like that,” Hunter said. “My father was physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive to my mother.”
Many of the “Walk a Mile” events involve showy downtown parades of men in red high heels wielding signs such as “Rape Hurts Everyone.” Although some high heels were seen on men and women, the Converse event, by contrast, was a quiet, reflective journey winding across the campus. The student organizers’ purpose was to build awareness within the Converse community, as well as providing solidarity for the survivors in our midst.
“There are a lot of people right here at Converse dealing with this, who are in these statistics, said Hunter’s girlfriend Heather Hiley ’17, student chaplain and a member of the Student Government Association Executive Committee who organized the event. “They know we are doing this, for them. It’s helped people know they are not alone.”
The morning began with a talk from Jamie Hughes, a victim advocate and college coordinator for Safe Homes Rape Crisis Coalition (SHRCC) in Spartanburg. He expressed the South Carolina statistics for rape and domestic violence. For many years our state was #1 in the nation for domestic violence against women. We have since moved to #5 but, as Jamie said, “we have a long way to go.”
Largely in silence, the walkers followed a path marked out in chalk with statistics relating to rape or domestic violence every few yards. Each new fact spurred a moment to pause, respond together with fellow walkers or simply silently process the information presented.
Hunter and Heather took their time to process every statistic and every story together. As a 19-yr-old soldier, while serving in the Horn of Africa region, Hunter witnessed the aftermath of pirate activity in Ethiopia and Somalia.
“Pirates are notorious for sex trafficking. But when you meet the victims involved and you see the conditions, it hits you on another level.”
At the end of the mile, the walkers were given water and encouraged to discuss what they had learned. They also took the opportunity to observe the collection of shoes and stories of rape and domestic violence victims and survivors which were posted along the front of Rainey Amphitheatre.
Despite having a greater awareness of the subject matter than most, Hunter felt it was a good experience. “It put more numbers on it.” He and Heather look forward to the event growing and bringing more people into awareness. “We all know it’s an issue, we all hope it would go away but I don’t think it ever will. It’s really hard to know what to do about it.”
The Student Government Executive Committee revealed that Safe Homes Rape Crisis Coalition is their charity partner of the year. Converse students will continue to raise funds and awareness, partnering with SHRCC throughout the academic year.