You’ve probably heard the old saying: “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

It’s a maxim that rings especially true for the ever-increasing number of men who take part in the international Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. Every year, in communities around the world, men don high heels and walk a mile to raise awareness—and start a conversation—about violence against women.

Women Helping Women’s West Maui Task Force hosted its sixth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event on Saturday, Sept. 30, at the Outlets of Maui mall in Lahaina. Fire-engine red heels were provided by Women Helping Women; however, many participants borrowed or brought their own. The event (which was open to men and women of all ages) was a fundraiser for Women Helping Women, a nonprofit organization that provides crisis intervention and support services for direct and indirect victims of domestic violence on Maui and Lanai. The mission of Women Helping Women is to end domestic violence through advocacy, education and prevention, while offering safety and support to those impacted by domestic violence. The proceeds from this year’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes benefitted the organization’s donation pickup service and the West Maui Client Assistance Fund.

Among the men teetering on stiletto heels on the morning of Sept. 30 was Chris Haigh of KW Island Living, who has participated in the event since 2013. That year, his wife, Andrea, donated some linens to Women Helping Women—and as she was dropping them off, she picked up a great idea. “She came home and told me I would be wearing a dress in a few weeks to help raise money for Women Helping Women at their Walk a Mile event,” Haigh recalled. “It’s the first time I had worn heels or a dress in my life.”

Since then, he’s worn heels and a dress—which he accessorizes with a wide-brimmed hat, gold purse, bright pink scarf and sunglasses—every year. He’s also been there to lend a hand. “Andrea volunteered my services to help set up the event, which I immediately agreed to,” he said. “I have been assisting with setup and breakdown tasks ever since.”

And Haigh’s sense of style has not gone unnoticed: In 2014, he was the first-place winner of the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes costume contest. Apart from mastering his now-signature look, Haigh has also developed a few tried-and-true strategies over the years. “Plan early to get donations from friends who can’t attend,” he advised. “Practice walking in heels if you have never tried it—and try to find a pair big enough to wear.”  

With that in mind, Haigh encourages other men to consider signing up for next year’s event. “It’s a lot of fun and great male bonding as you walk in heels,” he said. “It would be great to see double the number of participants—both men and boys—next year. There’s no reason to be bashful about wearing heels; it’s a fun event, anyone can do it and it’s for a great cause that needs broader support from the entire community.”

He’s right. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S., which equates to more than 10 million women and men annually. And on a typical day, more than 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. This is why the mission of Women Helping Women is so vitally important.

To learn more about volunteer or donor opportunities with Women Helping Women, visit womenhelpingwomenmaui.com or call (808) 242-6600. For more information about Women Helping Women’s West Maui Task Force, call (808) 661-7111. For more information about Women Helping Women’s ReVive Boutique, visit www.womenhelpingwomenmaui.com/revive-boutique or call (808) 495-0067.

By Sarah Ruppenthal

The Maui News – October 28, 2017

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