By Ashley Gill, Guest Writer
Men and women alike were decked out in heels, strutting their stuff around campus at Pacific Lutheran University to bring awareness to sexual assault and domestic violence.
The guys stumbled and struggled to strap themselves into stylish high-heeled shoes as surrounding women giggled in preparation for this year’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event during Take Back the Night.
Junior Kelsey Greer, the SAPET (Sexual Assault Peer Education Team) coordinator, along with the other members of SAPET, organized the annual Take Back the Night event, which took place at Red Square on April 25. LuteFit, along with the Women’s Center and Voices Against Violence, helped organize and fund the event.
Student and community participants gathered at Red Square for introductions and guest speakers before the group took to the sidewalks, stairs and hills of campus to bring awareness.
Carlos Solorzano, resident director of Tingelstad, and Mercy Daramola, Stuen and Ordal’s resident director, were the masters of ceremonies for the event.
Solorzano said he got involved because “it’s really important that we go out there, hit the streets and let people know that this is a problem, and we have to do something about this.”
He pointed out that one in four women have been a victim of sexual assault on college campuses nationally.
Advocates from the Pierce County Sexual Assault Center spoke about their part in bringing awareness to sexual assault and how they help those who are affected. The center has a phone line open for any questions or concerns at all, 24/7 365 days a year.
Sophomore Audrey Lewis was the radical cheerleader of this year’s Take Back the Night. Lewis said the event “focuses on empowerment, not scare tactics. I can get them riled up, and I can speak out.”
Raising the energy and sound level at Red Square, she taught the participants three different chants. The chants could be heard throughout classrooms, residence halls and buildings alike as Lewis led all the participants, including the men participating in Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, around the parameters of campus.
With the warm sun shining down on them, participants walked for more than a half hour yelling chants in harmony such as “two, four, six, eight, end the violence, end the hate!” and holding up signs that read “consent is sexy.”
“We, as a culture, tend to remove sexual violence from ourselves,” Lewis said. “We say ‘oh it happens but to those people, not people like me.’” When looking at PLU, Lewis said, “I think people would be surprised to know how many women and men have been affected by sexual assault.”
The walk ended in the Cave on lower campus where PLU’s HERmonic performed and volunteers shared intimate stories of why they were participating in the event and why domestic violence and sexual assault awareness is so important.
“I think their experiences can really tell a lot about how painful it is and how much it impacts their life, and that’s something we need others to know,” Solorzano said of the conversation afterward.
“Events like this really help show the true power of women,” sophomore Carly Brooks said. “There are new voices, voices that are often silenced that have an opportunity to speak, and we spoke loud, and we spoke really proud, so I’m proud of PLU for this event.”
Resources for survivors of sexual assault
Victim Advocate, 253-538-6303
Jennifer Warwick provides options and resources for individuals to make informed decisions about their situation. Offers a safe, private setting for individuals with questions or concerns about sexual assault, intimate partner violence or stalking. No cost.
Counseling Center, 253-535-7206
Provides confidential counseling and treatment for post-traumatic stress responses by licensed psychologists. No cost.
Health Center, 253-535-7337
Offers primary healthcare to students, including pregnancy testing and STI screenings. No charge for office visits; reduced cost for laboratory tests and prescription drugs.
Campus Ministry, 253-535-7464
Provides confidential religious counseling and a safe place for the PLU community to explore issues of faith and spirituality.
Campus Safety, 253-535-7441
A safe place students can report sexual misconduct. Can also assist with reporting through the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office and be first respondents in emergency situations.
Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County, 253-474-7273
Provides victim advocacy and therapy for all forms of sexual violence.
Crystal Judson Family Justice Center, 253-798-4166
Serves the needs of domestic violence victims and their children by providing comprehensive victim services in Tacoma.