The sight of the male city attorney and police chief walking around Sumner City Hall in their finest high heels last week caused some to laugh, others to kindly suggest the need for a pedicure, and everyone to be on high alert for those using the stairs around the pair.
While the laughs and the clicking of high heels echoed throughout the building, Sumner City Attorney Brett Vinson and Police Chief Brad Moericke were preparing to strut their stuff down Pacific Avenue in Tacoma on Friday for the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, to raise money and awareness for the Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County.
The Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County offers advocacy and support to those affected by sexual assault and abuse. The center’s goal is to improve the community’s response to sexual assault and abuse victims by challenging behaviors and beliefs promoting sexual violence. Part of that community response is the center’s annual event for men, where they walk one mile while wearing high heels.
“You truly don’t understand a situation until you have walked a mile in their shoes,” Moericke said. “The little nuances that we (men) take for granted, you actually experience while walking in their shoes.”
Those nuances, Vinson says, were highlighted for him during his first year at the event walking in stilettos.
“Sidewalks are designed by men, not women,” he said. “I had those little stiletto heels, and those little pokey things get caught in everything. Not fun at all. The little yellow nubbie things right before a cross walk aren’t designed by women either. You get your little heel on the tip of that, and it slides right off.”
Now that Moericke and Vinson are experienced walking miles in women’s shoes, the duo have picking out the right shoes for the event down to a science.
“I went with an open toe this year to prevent blisters,” Moericke quipped.
Last year, Vinson attempted to go the open-toe route as well, but still ended up with aching feet, blaming what he calls is wide and fat feet. Vinson, however, bought his shoes for this year’s walk from a company that makes high heels for men.
Still, year after year, the two end up with aching feet — and an even greater understanding for what victims of sexual assault go through.
“Even the experience of buying the shoes on Saturday, I couldn’t convince anyone to go with me, so I went on my own,” Moericke said. “I felt really awkward at the Nordstrom Rack trying on shoes. I can imagine the stigma that goes along with sexual assault as well. Even though I was there doing a noble thing for the right reasons, I still felt awkward.”
“That’s what we hear a lot of times from victims is that they are not comfortable, they’re hesitant to bring up these sorts of issues because they are so personal,” Vinson said. “They’re not sure how people are going to react.”
Even with the blisters and the strange looks — not to mention giggles that come from those they encounter while wearing their heels — the men insist it’s the least they can do for those effected by sexual assault.
“I think it’s doing our part outside of our professional responsibilities — him as a prosecutor, me as a police chief — but in the larger of supporting Pierce County services,” Moericke said. “This is the only sexual assault center that I am aware of in our area, so it benefits our citizens. Its incumbent on everyone in Pierce County to do their part.”
City Administrator John Galle, a former police chief as well, also participated in the event.
“We share a special relationship, not only in our roles here, but prosecutor, former prosecutor, former chief of police — we all deal with sexual assault cases, domestic violence cases,” Moericke said. “Our professions are all about pursuing justice.”