PITTSFIELD -- For the third consecutive year, men are being given the opportunity to don high heels and try and walk a mile in her shoes.
It might be fun to watch men teeter-totter their way down North Street in shoes that most of them have never worn. But this isn't a stunt.
It's being done to highlight the role men can take in helping eliminate violence against women, and to show solidarity with the survivors of those incidents. Men are not required to wear high heels to participate, but their use is encouraged.
The local version of an international event, the third annual "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Men's March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence," will be held rain or shine during the city's monthly Third Thursday's event this week.
Registration begins at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of North Street and Park Square. The proceeds benefit the Elizabeth Freeman Center, Berkshire County's domestic violence/rape crisis center. There is no registration fee or age limit, but participants will be asked to raise pledges to support victim services.
Janis Broderick, the EFC's executive director, said her agency currently receives less state funding than it did four years ago.
"We really depend on community support to continue our work," she said.
The local walk began as a fundraising event designed to provide an opportunity for the community to be more aware of the problems of violence against women and the steps that can be taken to prevent it.
"It's also a way to engage men in the effort to stop violence," Broderick said. "For many years in this movement it's always been women's voice at the forefront. We believe that everybody should be involved in this together."
The first "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event took place in California in 2001, and it has grown substantially since then. This month alone, 35 similar events are scheduled to take place in the United States, Bulgaria, Canada and Germany.
Last year's event in Pittsfield drew more than twice the number of walkers who participated in the inaugural walk. The amount of money raised for the Freeman Center last year also doubled, Broderick said.
"I think each year it grows," Broderick said, referring to the community support. "It's underwritten by a broad cross-section of folks including lawyers, civic groups and banks.
"Last year lot of youth sports team participated," Broderick said. "We didn't have that the first year."
The Walk is also supported by a variety of community leaders, including Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless, and Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn.
Broderick said participants will be asked to walk down North Street from Park Square to Maplewood Avenue and back. A Band-aid station will be located halfway through the course for those who struggle.
"We encourage people to wear socks with their shoes rather than go barefoot," Broderick said.
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