This past weekend, I donned a fashionable pair of women’s sling back wedges (perfect for this senior) and joined some 1,500 other marchers in Fairfield for the 7th annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event to build awareness against sexual violence. I learned that the tagline for this year was “Walk a Mile so Campers can Hike a Mile” and The Center for Family Justice plans to take some 60 children to its Camp Hope facility in the Berkshire Mountains this summer. The walk was part of Sexual Violence Prevention Month, which just ended.

This event was sponsored by The Center for Family Justice’s White Ribbon Campaign and the Fairfield Police Department. While the walk is for everyone, the hope is that men and boys will actually take the first step to end violence against women and girls. The bottom line in any intimate relationship is for partners to recognize that intimacy must be based on mutual consent and that no means no.

According to the website for the International Walk a Mile program, “Sexual violence happens to both men and women and this event focuses on the impact of sexual violence and other forms of intimate partner violence on women and girls. This Walk a Mile program is designed to get people, especially men, to walk a mile in a victim’s shoes as a way to talk about the serious and complex issue of men’s sexual violence against women and girls.

Center for Family Justice CEO Debra Greenwood pointed out that, “Sexual violence statistics show that 1 out of 4 women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 14 boys in Connecticut have been victims of child sexual abuse. While 90 percent of sexual violence perpetrators are men and boys, we also know most men and boys are not violent or abusive. This is why engaging men and boys as true partners in prevention is critical to creating lasting social change.

“This year’s walk raised approximately $20,000 and the proceeds will go to our Camp Hope America/ Connecticut program supporting youth 7-17, who attend sleep away Camp for a week at Camp Hi- Rock located at Mount Washington in the Berkshires,” Greenwood added.

“Camp Hope is the only evidence-based camp for youth affected by trauma related to sexual abuse and physical abuse while living in a domestic violence household,” she said.

My companion for the walk was our cocker spaniel Truffie, who literally supported me as I “wobbled” through the one-mile trek from the Fairfield Railroad Station to Town Hall. After the walk, my feet and ankles hurt, but my commitment to help in the battle against sexual violence was stronger than ever.

For me, the most powerful thing about the Walk a Mile event was the number of students and particularly men of all ages, who walked, many wearing stiletto heels. For instance, I spoke with Chris, who was representing his church in Easton with his daughter and other congregants and wore a bright red pair of stilettos. He had walked last year also and was committed to the cause.

There was also a huge turnout from various sports teams, both women’s and men’s, from Fairfield University, Sacred Heart University and our Fairfield high schools. They were joined by many organizations, members of the White Ribbon Campaign to build awareness among men against sexual and domestic violence and victims of sexual violence.

Also at the event were former Fairfield Police Chief and now White Ribbon Campaign Chairman, Gary McNamara, current Fairfield Police Chief Lyddy along with Chiefs Lombardo, Salvatore, and Shaw of Trumbull, Monroe and Easton, respectively.

Among the major sponsors of the Walk a Mile event were Presenting Sponsor, Aquarion and Silver Sponsors Merit Insurance, SMG and Star 99.9. And there was strong representation from legislators like Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau, State Representative Brenda Krupchick and State Sen. Tony Hwang, as well as several other first selectmen.

According to the International Walk a Mile Web site, the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® event is a playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediation to men’s violence against women. The concept for the Walk a Mile campaign revolves around an old saying: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® asks men to literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes. It’s not easy walking in these shoes, but it’s fun and it gets the community to talk about something that’s really difficult to talk about: gender relations and men’s sexual violence against women.

My experience in this event was amazing and I am more committed than ever to help the Center for Family Justice in its efforts to end sexual violence permanently.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com