On Saturday, the Pen Centre was packed with men wearing high heels to show solidarity with survivors of gendered violence at the Walk a Mile in HER Shoes event.
Gillian’s Place, the organizer, seeks to empower women and their children fleeing abuse by providing a safe and supportive environment. They do this by offering a range of services to women and children in order to raise awareness on violence and abuse.
Their vision is to “seek a socially just community where all women and children are free from violence and abuse.” Gillian’s Place works with community partners in order to provide the best services possible to every woman and child that enters through their doors.
Gillian’s Place provides residential and counselling programs as well as transitional house and support programs. They provide the resources for women to find jobs and receive adequate training, as well as finding them a new place to live.
Walk a Mile in HER Shoes is a one kilometer walk around the Pen Centre, created to raise awareness towards violence against women and children. For 13 years, this event has allowed the community to see men standing with women in order to make the community a safe place for women and children.
This event, in spirit, takes place around the world in some form or another. For example, in Uganda women walk with a baby strapped on their backs and a jug of water on their head to create awareness. In Canada, men walk in high heels to literally walk a kilometer in a woman’s shoes as a show of solidarity.
For this event, men walk together with their teams or individually to show their support for women struggling with abuse. Money was donated to both teams and individuals with all proceeds going towards maintaining Gillian’s Place. The shoes were even provided (as they are every year) for the walk so participants didn’t need to find their own beforehand.
Valerie DuRoss has been the Development and Communications Coordinator at Gillian’s Place for the past two years. DuRoss continues to work towards providing a safe space for abused women and children every day.
“Our goal is to empower women and their children fleeing abuse by providing safety, support, and a range of services and to raise awareness about root causes to end the cycle of violence and abuse,” said DuRoss. “Gillian’s place is Niagara’s largest provider of shelter and support services for women and children who are experiencing abuse. The money raised goes towards maintain Gillian’s Place shelter and services. We need to raise about $500,000 each year just to keep our operations going.”
Fundraising is necessary for Gillian’s Place, especially as the centre faced a 25 per cent increase in crisis shelter stays last year, supporting 358 women and children.
This year saw 220 participants take part in the walk and donate to help support the cause.
Darryl Andree, Business Development Manager for Brand Blvd and an Ambassador for the event, has been a regular participant for the past five years.
“I participate in this event because I have three sisters, four nieces and a mom that I could not imagine not having a safe place for them to go. I choose to stand up and take a public stance for women that have been abused to show that it is not okay,” said Andree. “Violence does not discriminate between the rich and poor; anyone can be exposed to it and I think it’s important to participate in this event so that we can create more awareness to people who may not even know what’s going on in their communities.”