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Men to don high-heeled shoes to draw attention to sexual violence

These shoes will be worn this weekend by a group of local men who will attempt to walk a mile in them in an effort to raise public awareness of sexual violence. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

Dean Shuck usually wears a size 10-E shoe. The extra width gives the Kandiyohi County commissioner and farmer from rural Sunburg a little more comfort. But on Saturday, Shuck will squeeze his dogs into a pair of high-heeled women's shoes and attempt to walk a mile. For his efforts, Shuck -- and the other men who'll be hobbling around the track at Willmar Junior High -- will earn pledge money for Shelter House and increase public awareness of sexual violence.

"It takes courage actually to take a stand and walk in women's high-heel shoes," said Chantell Hay, advocacy director of Shelter House. Located in Willmar, Shelter House serves women and children in Kandiyohi, Renville and Swift counties.

Patterned after the International "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event, the walk Saturday will draw attention to sexual assault and gender violence, Hay said. It's being held in April to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

They hope the walk will become an annual event that will attract more male participants.

There are currently five teams of men, with about four men on each team, who'll be tugging on a pair of heels before hitting the track.

This is obviously a spectator sport.

Supporters are encouraged to cheer on the teams, participate in the other family-friendly activities and help raise money for Shelter House.

The goal is prevent abuse, said Hay. But Shelter House is there to help women and children who need to escape it.

From July 2008 to June of 2009, Shelter House served 163 individuals in the three-county area.

Hay said it's important to let the community know there are men who are "not too macho to put on a pair of heels" and create awareness about sexual violence.

One of the teams includes football players from Ridgewater College's cultural diversity club and another team has men from the Post Office.

It's encouraging to see men "willing to take a stand for women," Hay said.

Doug Abraham, a Kandiyohi County social worker specializing in child protection, said he and the other men on his team realize the importance of raising awareness and money that will help the Shelter House.

When it comes to putting on the shoes, Abraham said his buddies have a "good attitude" about the mission ahead of them. He's concerned, however, about getting a size 12 shoe that he needs.

Hay said she and others at the Shelter House have been scouring closets and second-hand stores looking for really big shoes. They would welcome donations. The bigger -- and the uglier -- the better, she said. One man has requested a size 14.

A first-aid booth will be located on the track to assist the men who might find it difficult to walk a mile in a woman's shoes, said Hay.

Besides the shoes, some of the participants may step up the fashion statement to have fun with the event.

"I have to find out if we have to paint our toe nails or what," said Shuck.

Definitely a spectator sport.

For more information contact the Shelter House at 320-235-0962.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750