Students, officials raise domestic violence awareness in heels

Bradie Gray

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke Listens to Jerry Lewis speak at To Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Tuesday in Mitchell Auditorium.
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke Listens to Jerry Lewis speak at To Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Tuesday in Mitchell Auditorium.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.

Every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten.

Every 107 seconds in the United States, a woman is sexually abused.

“Keep that in mind and watch out for your brothers and your sisters,” said Jerry Lewis, who spoke at To Walk a Mile in her Shoes Tuesday night in Mitchell Auditorium.

Lewis, who has been the “furniture man” for Albion Fellows Bacon Center for seven years, also works full time at AK Steel and spends his free days delivering furniture to women and families in need.

“My mother was abused when I was young,” he said to the crowd. “I remember very vividly my dad hitting my mom. I tried to break it up and I ended up being awoken by paramedics after he had thrown me into the cabinets and knocked me unconscious.”

Lewis said he and his mother eventually left to start a new life, but were not given the services that Albion Fellows Bacon Center offers today.

He said he’s not sure if the abuse he endured is the reason he is drawn to doing this type of charity work or the look of elation on the faces of the families he delivers furniture to.

“To them, this new furniture was the start of a new life,” Lewis said.

Right before he got up to speak, a lady he had once delivered furniture to came up and thanked him for the work he does.

“It’s really all about that. That’s why I do it,” he said.

Following Lewis’ speech, the walk began as a hoard of male college students clunked through the halls of the Health Professions Center in bright red heels.

Giggles from their female counterparts ensued.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, clad with red shoes like the rest of the men, participated in the walk.

He said it was worth the foot pain – even though his toes were “scrunched.”

“You hear things from different perspectives and you see things from different lenses,” he said. “I dare say that probably a great majority of the (college students) here who haven’t experienced something like that already will eventually.”

Winnecke said the whole event is a good educational tool for the younger generation and a reminder to other generations to be their “brother and sisters keepers.”

“We should not hesitate to reach out and offer assistance,” he said.

He said the symbolism of the event is very important.

“The men that are participating are good sports about it, but beyond the humor of seeing a man in high heels, there’s a powerful message that we all need to realize. Violence must end – whether it be domestic violence, violence related to gangs or drugs but certainly domestic violence, we can all play a role,” he said.

Douglas Rose, a senior biochemistry major, had no problem daunting the heels for the fourth year in a row.

Rose has participated in Walk a Mile since his freshman year. He volunteers at the event with the USI rugby team.

“When I started here, they had only been doing it for a couple years, so we’re carrying the tradition on and trying to help when we can – whether it be carrying signs or whatever they ask us to do,” he said.

This year, Rose stood in front of all of the “walkers” holding one of the many informational signs with facts about domestic violence and sexual assault.

Rose said the event is a cool way to tackle the problem.

“I know it’s definitely an issue in the region, so I thought it was a good way to tell people and spread awareness while they’re young,” he said. “I thought it was a good idea to get the rugby team because they’re typically known for being rugged kind of people, so trying to get some of those guys to come out and show support was great.”

The walk ended with a group of male leaders –Winnecke, Lewis, Director of Public Safety Steve Woodall, Evansville Police Department Chief Billy Bolin, Warrick County Prosecutor Mike Perry and USI Counseling Center Director Thomas Longwell  – all pledging to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women or girls and urging the audience to do the same.