My ankles hurt, but not as much as my heart

I put on a pair of 4 Inch silver heels that sparked in the sunlight just so I could know what it is like to be a woman.
Yeah right!
As if just putting on shoes that are as uncomfortable as, you know … that very hot place down there, would suddenly give me any sort of understanding what it’s like to have men’s eyes drift towards parts of my body while blood rushes to parts of their body that are not their brains.
Or hear the things some men actually somehow decide is okay to say out loud about my body as if it is only an object, as if I were only an object.
Or to have my very being diminished to a mere commodity equated numerically on a subjective scale of one to ten.
A pair of heels cannot suddenly grant me this sort of insight.

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Nor did putting on heels put inside me a sense of fear when men approach me and invade my personal space, acting as if I wanted their advances because of how I am dressed. Or the uncertainty that settles in when confronted unexpectedly by someone not taking the hints or even “no” for an answer.

A pair of heels didn’t give me an understanding of being touched when I didn’t want to be touched and in places civilized people wait to get permission to touch.

A pair of heals didn’t tell me what it feels like to be victimized because I have what some man decides he desires.
A pair of heels didn’t tell me what it’s like to live after being violated.

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Just putting on a pair of heels and trying to walk sure as hell didn’t teach me what it is like to be a woman. For one, I could take the shoes off at anytime. In fact, I did. I just couldn’t handle the pain in my toes or the instability as I was trying to walk and do my job.

A woman doesn’t have the luxury of just deciding not to be a woman.

I did learn that walking in the grass is nearly impossible with each foot sinking, in forcing me to clench my toes in hopes to be able to pull the shoe out. I learned that sidewalk cracks are put there by the devil himself and once you lose your balance and are teetering on one foot, the only thing left to do is to pray that you don’t go all the way down or take out the people walking next to you with flailing arms and perpetual motion.

And sadly, as noted by photos taken of me now on Facebook, I learned that putting on a pair of heels didn’t even make my butt look better.

The one-ish mile awareness march through Franklin on Sunday was part of a nationwide observance during April’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Walk a Mile In Her Shoes asks men to put on high heels and take a walk in public to show support. It is really just a fun aside, a gimmick of sorts, to do something different to draw attention from the public.

The organizers hope that it will reach somebody … anybody … to understand the problems we all face in a rape culture world. A problem that could be described as reaching epidemic proportions with the number of sexual assaults everyday in the world.

It is a way to create a sense of understanding in a not so serious way in the midst of a very serious problem.

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The walk is only the catalyst to bring to light that, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 1 in 3 women statistically are victims of sexual assault before the age of 18 and that every 98 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in the United States.

Every eight minutes the victim is a child.

That only 6 in 1,000 are ever convicted of committing sexual assault.

Let those numbers sink in for a minute.

I thought about those numbers as I listened to the speakers at the event prior to the walk.  I thought about my co-workers, my family – cousins, aunts, uncles, my parents and grandparents – knowing, statistically, it is likely more than one of them have had to deal with being sexually assaulted.
Those aren’t numbers. Those are people I care about. Every single one of those numbers is someone someone loves!
Now, let those numbers sink in again for a minute as you think about your circle of friends.
It begins to make you angry, doesn’t it.
Now, think about how you have felt or reacted reading or hearing about someone being sexually assaulted. Someone you don’t know. What did you think? Did you wonder what the person was doing walking alone or why they were wearing what they were? Think about what your friends and family wear? Do they “ask for it”? Now, remember the statistics. One in 3 girls are sexually assaulted before they turn 18. It’s not 1 in 3 girls who wear revealing clothing and walk home late alone.
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Last year in Venango County, 63 sexual assault cases were filed. That was up from 50 the year before. But RAINN claims 68 percent of sexual assaults each year go unreported to police, bringing the county’s estimated total to over 180 in 2016.
There is an estimated 26,000 females in Venango County, according to the more recent census estimates. If RAINN’s estimates of 1 in 3 girls before 18 are sexually assaulted is accurate, the number of women living as survivors of sexual assault in this county could be over 8,000.
In the last year, the PPC Violence Free Network and Shelter, servicing Venango County, provided services to 230 survivors of sexual assault.
Estimated 68 percent go unreported. (I keep repeating this. You should too!)

Though it is predominately women who are sexually assaulted, men are as well. RAINN says 1 in 33 males have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. And that one in 10 of all rapes a male is the victim.

I again began to think about my co-workers, family, friends. Statistically …. well, it gets maddening.

And, again, I have to repeat this, only 6 in a 1,000 of all assaults ever end in a conviction. That means 994 out of a 1,000 possible sexual offenders are still free to do it again.

At Sunday’s event in Fountain Park, in the neighborhood of 75 people gathered to listen to the speakers and take part in the awareness. I say only, not because I’m putting down the efforts of the organizers, but it’s really astounding more people aren’t standing up. It was a successful event and well run. Many of those in attendance have been to the event in previous years, others work in organizations helping victims or trying to prosecute the offenders. Some were children brought by their parents. Some were victims and survivors.

I remember a meeting a few years back when the Fish and Boat commission was going to recommend that visitors to the spillway in Linesville would no longer be allowed to feed bread to the carp and waterfowl. The meeting had to be moved to the high school gymnasium to accommodate the crowd.

And it was still standing room only.

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In Venango County, 75 people came out to show they care that sexual violence affects 1 in 3 girls under 18.

I was surprised how many people came up to me and applauded me for putting on the heals. As if it is really as big of a deal compared to what folks working with victims and their families have to go through. Or what the featured speaker Kaitlyn Spaulding did by getting up in front of others, some she doesn’t even know, to openly discuss being a survivor of sexual violence. She and the organizers spoke of the importance of not just being aware during a designated month, but working continually to spread awareness and offer help to those victims of violence through programs, support and the development of educational programs in hopes of preventing others from being victims in the future.

They explain we all have a stake in the game – but it’s no game.

We are a part of the problem if we are not willing to help find a solution and educate others.

It’s as simple as that.

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So, today, as a reporter for a small community-oriented family newspaper, I donned a pair of 4 inch heels to take a short walk in hopes that, by doing so, by reporting my observations to our readers, that I can be a small part of a solution of educating this community.

And even though I couldn’t even do it, I could walk the mile in heels … in “her” shoes. I hope by sending these words out maybe some good will come out of it.

Maybe some young person or adult will come forward and seek the help that is available through organizations like PPC and Women’s Services. That people move from feeling like victims to feeling like survivors. That we take advantage of the free self-defense classes available, like the one Saturday at the Franklin YMCA from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with registration at 10:30 a.m. That maybe we’ll call out inappropriate behavior of others when we see it instead of turning a blind eye. Maybe we’ll learn to understand our own language a little better, know what is inappropriate and learn to communicate with more respect for one another.

Maybe folks reading this might try to help put an end to this maddening, maddening tragedy of humanity.

As for the event, I hope they do this every year. I hope more people come out to support the efforts of the advocate agencies and even more support those who have had to deal with assault. It is not their fault.

Trying to take part in this walk, I know my sore ankles will heal and the blister on my toe will go away in a short amount of time.

Those living with being traumatized by sexual assault don’t have it that easy.

In Venango County PPC provides services to victims of sexual violence, such as counseling, first responses to hospitals and police stations, advocacy and emergency shelter. They also maintain a 24 hour hotline at (800) 243-4944. Hotlines are safe and confidential, and calls are routed only by the first six numbers of the phone number. Responders only report calls if consent is given or if it is something they are legally obligated to report, such as when a child is involved.

More information about PPC can be found at or at the 24-hour hotline at (800) 243-4944 or (814) 677-7273. National Sexual Assault Hotline is (Caller will be connected to a local crisis center) (800) 656-4673.