By Marielle Daeumer

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is a community event hosted by Family Services Inc., where men in the community don stilettos and walk a mile in solidarity with women who may be a victim of gender or domestic violence, and sexual assault. The most recent event was held Saturday, October 13th at All Sport Health and Fitness Center in Fishkill.

One in five women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, one in four girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18, and every nine seconds in the United States a woman is beaten or assaulted. By walking a mile in a pair of heels, the men that attend this event show their support for the women that are part of these statistics.

“It’s not pretending that walking in heels is the same thing, but it’s just a reminder to us about how we need to stand in solidarity with women who are so often, all too often, victims in that way. It’s also about coming together as a community and saying: ‘we have to teach our kids from the get-go what a respectful relationship is all about,’” says Doyle.

An attendee of the event, Antoinette, shared an experience in an unhealthy relationship:

“Well, first I’d like to say that I’m grateful because I stand before you not as a victim, but as a survivor. When I grew up, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. He[My ex-boyfriend] wanted to control me because he didn’t want any male to want me or talk to me. I thought it was because he loved me so much…until he started beating me. I can’t even tell you how many times I had a black eye. People would always ask ‘Why don’t you just leave?’ and people would say I stayed because I liked it. I did not stay because I liked it; I stayed because I was scared he was going to kill me.”

Antoinette’s story, like many others, is representative of the need for many of the programs that Family Services Inc. provides.

Family Services Inc. is a non-profit organization that has been part of the community since 1879. Over the past 135 years they have been striving towards fulfilling their mission of meeting the changing needs of individuals and families in the community.

Through their variety of services, they are able to assist over 11,000 individuals annually in Dutchess, Ulster, and Orange Counties. Their centers receive over 100,000 annual client visits, over half of which utilize 2 to 5 of the services they provide. They also host a variety of events for community outreach.

This year, the organization has raised around $61,000. That money is used to fund the Youth Program, Family Program, Victim Services, Community Safety, the Family Partnership Center, and year-long efforts dedicated to prevention.

Expanding community awareness through Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is just one way Family Services hopes to prevent and diminish the concerning statistics surrounding women and victims.

“There has been a growing turnout for sure and the energy today is great and we hope to grow it in the years ahead. We want more and more people in the community to be aware. Quite frankly, I’ve been with Family Services for seven years, but it wasn’t until I came [here] that I had an increasing awareness of victim services and the ways in which primarily women are victims. You could be passing someone on the street and not have an idea that she has been a victim of sexual assault,” said Doyle.

“The Walk-A-Mile event is something that I’ve been involved with for about 5 or 6 years now.  Selfishly, I LOVE seeing people come out to support women and the community in raising funds and awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.  Also, seeing the DCC students so actively participating in the event and engaging with the community brings such a large smile to my face. I’m happy that so many people can contribute to such an amazing cause,” says Jordan Bell, English Professor and club adviser at DCC.

Thanks to the many sponsors involved, including DCC, in funding this organization, the Family Services Center is able to provide knowledge, resources and help for women in need.

For more information contact Family Service Inc. by phone, in Dutchess County, at (845) 452-1110, at their facility, 50 N Hamilton St, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 or online at http://familyservicesny.org/