We are well into October which is commemorated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month across the United States. Berkshire County is no exception and we gave it a jump start again this year with our second annual "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault, and Gender Violence." Like last year, this year’s walk was a phenomenal success. The number of walkers went up from 100 to over 200. The number of dollars raised climbed from $15,000 to over $25,000. Community awareness of a highly toxic social problem was heightened -- and we all had a fabulous time in the process!
District Attorney David Capeless and his entire office were back in style in their official "Walk a Mile" red pumps. Pittsfield Fire Chief Bob Czerwinski rose to the challenge laid down by Pittsfield Police Chief Mike Wynn to see who could enlist more walkers and raise more dollars. This year the police department triumphed -- who knows what next year will bring! Local businesses supported the cause by helping to underwrite the walk’s expenses and by encouraging employees to raise funds and actually walk the walk.
One of the most heartening additions this year was to see all of the young men representing Berkshire high school sports teams along with several teams from Williams College.
If you weren’t on North Street in Pittsfield for September’s Third Thursday, you really won’t want to miss it next year. And if you were there, you know you should mark your calendar now for next year’s event -- Thursday, September 19, 2013.
As an advocate for abuse survivors (most, though not all, of whom are female), it was an incredible feeling to see so many members of our community, primarily men, walking up the street in women’s shoes to raise community awareness about intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
The Elizabeth Freeman Center is the only Berkshire agency dedicated specifically to providing services to abuse survivors and yet our government funding is down $40,000 a year from its 2009 levels while the need for services has grown. The funds raised by Walk a Mile are vitally important to our continued ability to provide services to, and advocacy for, the many abuse survivors in our towns.
Thank you to the fabulous men who literally took a stand against violence, and to the fabulous women who organized and volunteered at the event.
Join us next year and don’t forget to start your shoe shopping now; women’s shoes in sizes 13, 14, and 15 are not easy to find!
The writer is executive director, Elizabeth Freeman Center.