Austin Lueck usually wears a pair of Nike athletic shoes.
Yet Thursday, Lueck, a freshman majoring in business and a member of the baseball team, donned a special pair – bright red patent leather stiletto pumps.
Lueck was one of hundreds of men who marched around the Martin Luther King Plaza in heels, taking a pledge against gendered violence in the fourth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.
He limped and wobbled slightly as the group left the Marshall Student Center (MSC) amphitheater, where hundreds of women’s high heels lay sprawled on tables for participants to choose from.
Lueck said he and his baseball team participated in the event to show their respect for women.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the event organizers wanted people to know the facts – one in four college women are reported survivors of rape or attempted rape, according to a 2010 Department of Justice study.
Michael Palin, Relationship Equality Awareness League (REAL) coordinator and the event organizer, said college students probably don’t realize the amount of gendered violence that takes place on campus.
“There’s actually quite a bit that goes on,” he said. “Students are not fully aware because (domestic violence) is so predominant within our culture.”
Palin said few men are educated about sexual and gendered violence early in life.
“You want to start as early as possible,” he said. “Here, people are redefining who they want to be.”
To Elizabeth Moschella, a sophomore majoring in psychology and REAL’s treasurer, the event had a different meaning than to the ankle-twisted men who wobbled around her.
Wearing a pair of fuzzy, blue bedroom slippers, Moschella said she was comfortable. She wasn’t always.
A survivor of sexual violence, she said she hoped to spread awareness about the dangers of gendered violence.
“It’s empowering seeing everyone here together,” she said. “A lot of people would say this is something that could never happen. I thought that, too. I didn’t want to believe it could.”
Some attended the event for friends.
Jason Jagosh, a junior majoring in marketing, participated in the event for the first time after finding out a few of his female friends had been victims.
“We need to be respecting women and raising awareness for relationship equality,” he said.
The men marched holding signs promoting gender equality. Included in the march were Rocky the Bull, who wore his usual black sneakers due to not being able to find another shoe large enough to wear, Office of Multicultural Affairs Director Aziz Talbani and Dean of Student Affairs Kevin Banks.
Banks addressed the men at the event asking them to chant “let’s be real.”
“A true sense of community is achieved when all in the community reach out and show concern for all members of the community,” he said.
As the group stumbled back to the amphitheater, Lueck said he felt he had learned about the significance of the event.
His feet were numb and “killing him,” but there was something he said was more important.
“Respecting women,” he said. “That’s what it’s about.”