FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Sexualized violence does not just affect women. It affects the men who care about them, their families, friends, coworkers, and their communities. Sexualized violence is an epidemic.
In the United States, April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month. During the month, activists raise awareness about sexual violence and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent it.
Several events take place throughout the month to spread awareness, including Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, the International Men's March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence.
What started out as a small group of men daring to totter around a park in high heels has grown to become a world-wide movement with tens of thousands of men, and women, raising millions of dollars for local rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and other sexualized violence education, prevention and remediation programs.
"Walk a Mile [in Her Shoes] is open to everyone," said Sgt. 1st Class Aretha Garrett, U.S. Army Alaska's Equal Opportunity Advisor and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention representative. "We are trying to get maximum participation and even if they can't be there, we still encourage them to make a donation."
Garrett said even though this is not an Army-sponsored event it is very closely related to the Army SHARP program. Proceeds not only benefit the local civilian populations, but Soldiers and family members in need as well.
"Because the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes supports sexual assault and domestic violence awareness, I thought that would be a good thing for the Army to participate in, being that we have the SHARP Program and the main goal is to get the word out on how to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment, and know there are resources out there that can help regardless whether they are a Soldier or civilian," said Garrett.
Several walks are being hosted around the state including Fairbanks and Anchorage on April 26.
Garrett said she and the rest of the U.S. Army Alaska's SHARP team are scheduled to have a booth set up at the event and the team already signed up to participate in the Fairbanks walk.
In Fairbanks the walk will be held at the Sadler's parking lot, located at 610 Cushman Street from 2-5 p.m. Registration is $20 through April 19 and $25 from April 20-26.
Free parking is available at the Community and Technical College at 604 Barnette St.
"It will be a fun event regarding a very serious issue," said Miriam Robbe, volunteer event planner for the Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living. "We will have statistics available and a lot of information regarding how people can reduce the problem in Fairbanks."
There will be nice incentives for those who participate as well, such as a free barbeque and foot massages.
"We encourage everybody to find their own shoes, but if they can't find any shoes there will be shoes available the day of the event," said Robbe.
Shoes are available to rent for $5 and can be reserved during registration. Or, bring your own.
There are many prizes available to participants in a variety of categories.
"We have different prizes for people who fundraise," said Robbe. "People can fundraise individually or if you have a specific unit or team, they can set that up on the Fundly site as a team instead of an individual."
Also, people who provide their own shoes, whether they are high heels, flats or just dressed-up shoes with sparkles or lace, will receive an extra door prize ticket.
Sponsors of the event said individuals or teams should feel free to carry banners or wear team shirts to show their support.
"People who fundraise for a specific business, or anything like that, we encourage them to wear a T-shirt for that business so people are aware of those that support this cause," said Robbe.
All proceeds from the walk benefit the Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living.
In Anchorage the walk is from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. starting in the University Center Mall corridor, located at 3801 Old Seward Highway. Parking is free at the University Center Mall.
Megan Young, event coordinator for Standing Together Against Rape in Anchorage, said, "We had minimal military participation last year and look forward to having more of that community represented at STAR's Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.
"This year, we have entered the 21st century with our fundraising technology and you can now create team [and] individual fundraising pages or both," said Young. "We just ask that each participant fundraises or contributes at least $25.
As part of his fundraising gimmick for promoting to friends and family, Surge Kulikov, STAR's prevention liaison, is doing different challenges when he reaches certain goals towards his fundraising goal of $1,000. For example, when he reaches the goal of $250, he will post a video of him getting his legs waxed for each person who donated.
"Our Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event will be hosted and sponsored by 92.9 KFAT," said Young. "We'll have check points along the way where participants can pick up [free items], as well as a number of door prizes and we'll be recognizing the people who raise the most money, wear the best heels, and complete their heat the fastest."
What about the shoes?
"We do have a selection of Value Village shoes on a first-come, first-serve basis," said Young. "Our signature red high heels are free to those who raise $200-plus."
All proceeds benefit STAR's mission of providing the best quality crisis intervention, education and advocacy services to victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse, their families and the community.
In Alaska alone the number of sexual assaults and sexual violence cases are astounding.
According to the 2011 Alaska Victimization surveys for Fairbanks and Anchorage, out of 710 adult women surveyed from the Municipality of Anchorage, 51out of every 100 women experienced intimate-partner violence, sexual violence or both, and out of 615 adult women surveyed from Fairbanks, 51 out of every 100 women experienced intimate-partner violence, sexual violence or both.
To show your support, you can register or donate online at either of the following websites:
To register, donate or create your own fundraising page in Fairbanks: https://fundly.com/walkamile2014
To register, donate or create your own fundraising page in Anchorage: https://starak.ejoinme.org/MyEvents/WalkaMileinHerShoes/CreateYourPersonalFundraisingPage/tabid/515329/Default.aspx