More than 1,500 people gathered at the State House April 14 for Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, the annual event designed to raise awareness of sexual violence and support Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands in its mission to help survivors.
The mile-long walk up Main Street and back down Sumter Street, then along Gervais Street to return to the State House, began with more stumbles and falls than the average walk, but that was to be expected with many men putting on high heels to support the cause. All were able to master the unfamiliar footwear at least well enough to avoid injury, and the event raised more than $50,000.
Many community leaders took part, including dozens of law enforcement officers. Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, and Springdale Police Chief Kevin Cornett donned women’s shoes and posed for pictures together. Holbrook went with flats instead of heels, explaining that “Last year hurt bad.” Officers from the University of South Carolina police department, SLED, Lexington Police Department, and Lexington County Sheriff’s Department also joined the walk, and the largest team at the event was from the South Carolina Department of Corrections, with 448 members.
Janet Parker and Shelli Adamczyk of WACH Fox news hosted the event, and heels were available for rent at the State House. Cromer’s and Zoes Kitchen provided snacks for all, and the combination of a drum circle and a DJ created a festive atmosphere, but there were constant reminders of the sobering reasons for the event. Lott and Holbrook both spoke to the crowd about the problem of sexual violence in South Carolina, where the number of rapes has exceeded the national average every year since 1982.
Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands offers support to help survivors and education for all, and all its programs are free and confidential. The nonprofit averages 1.5 hospital calls each day, and sends a trained volunteer or staff member to meet the survivor at the hospital each time such a call comes, to assist and support them through a difficult time. The organization’s 24-hour crisis hotline averages 40 calls per month. Staff and volunteers bring survivors new clothes and offer support, advocacy, and follow-up services including counseling by licensed professionals.
STSM also offers prevention education to middle and high school students as well as adults. More information on STSM is available here.
Photos by Allen Wallace. Click to Scroll.