By Ellen Cicchitti
On Tuesday, Sept. 25, DeSales’ PACE (Peers Advising Counseling Educating) presented their annual “Walk-a-Mile in Her Shoes” program for awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence. It asks men and women to literally walk a mile in women’s shoes, whether they are high heels or sandals.
For the information session, held in the DUC’s Trexler Room, six PACE members, seniors Liz Ruth, Alaine DeSantis, Abria Jackson and Sydney Hendrick, and sophomores Caitlyn Newsom and Alain Seviren, talked about why students need to be aware of sexual assault, what the cycle of abuse looks like, and what its warning signs are.
“We do this program because you can make a difference,” Hendrick said. “This is an issue we can’t ignore.”
A slide was shown of the sexual assault cases reported at DeSales over the years. Last year, there was a case of one rape and one issue of fondling.
“Only 30 percent of cases are reported to authorities,” Jackson said. “It happens a lot on college campuses. Every 98 seconds, someone is assaulted. However, the numbers have decreased.”
The cycle of abuse and its four phases was shown next; the tension builds in phase one, then an incident like slapping and threats occurs in phase two, reconciliation happens and the abuser does everything to win back the victim in phase three. At phase four, the abuser pretends to be good and a brief calm rises, until the cycle repeats once the tension builds again.
A video, “Behind the Post,” showed this cycle of domestic violence where a young couple posted videos and photos of their happy relationship on social media. However, behind those screens, threats and violence was happening to the young woman. It was a chilling story, and the room was silent until the presentation continued.
“There are warning signs to tell if someone you know is in an abusive relationship,” Ruth said. “There are marks or bruises, withdrawal from family or friends. They’re afraid to go against their partner, but you can help them. Use your gut if it feels wrong to you. Be understanding, offer to help them, and encourage them to get professional help.”
All of the proceeds from the event benefitted Turning Point, VAST (Valley Against Sex Trafficking), SAFE and the Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley. Their representatives came up to talk to the students about the various services they offer after PACE mentioned that the resources on campus were the peer advisors themselves, as well as the counseling center.
Dallas Riordian, a DeSales alumna, also came by to talk about VAST, which educates the community about human trafficking and works in close connection with the other organizations.
“We welcome volunteers,” Riordian said. “We want to get our name out there and make people aware that trafficking a problem in Lehigh Valley.”
After the session, the participants went outside in a light rain to raise awareness by walking around campus in “her shoes.” Students walked a mile around campus together sporting their “Walk-a-Mile” t-shirts in order to raise awareness about domestic violence, sexual assault, rape and abuse.
These showed that the cycle of abuse cannot continue, and that while many are at risk to be hurt, many can also stand up to fight against assault and abuse. By “walking a mile in her shoes,” these students proved that they will not stand for anyone else to be subjected to domestic violence and sexual assault.