Letter: Walk A Mile a part of worldwide movement

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To the editor:

On Thursday, during Pittsfield's Third Thursday event, the Elizabeth Freeman Center will be sponsoring Walk a Mile 2019, the annual march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence. This will be the ninth year that the Freeman Center is leading this event. Each year, people ask me why I continue to participate. The answer is simple; this fundraising and awareness event is of vital importance to health and safety of our community.

For the past 12 years, when I have been asked to name the top public safety priorities facing our community, domestic violence and domestic violence recidivism have consistently been in the top three. These acts of violence are not limited by race, gender, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or any other demographic descriptor. They have no defined boundaries. Yet, despite that pervasive nature, they are preventable. Through education, awareness, detection and advocacy, the Elizabeth Freeman Center works to prevent future acts of violence.

While Walk a Mile, with its live music, dramatic remarks and enthusiastic spectators, resembles other Third Thursday festivities, it is important to remember that this event is not a celebration. It is our local version of a worldwide movement, and it is held to raise desperately needed funds for the Freeman Center, and awareness of gender-based violence issues that affect us all.

The impact of domestic violence and sexual assault are not felt just by victims and their families. Incidents of gender-based violence are public safety and public health issues that impact entire communities. As Berkshire County's provider of survivor services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, the Freeman Center is a crucial partner in detecting, preventing, and combating crimes of this type. The funds that the Freeman Center raises through Walk A Mile provide direct assistance to local survivors.

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Through their direct services and partnerships with public safety and other local agencies, the Freeman Center can provide survivors with a variety of options that include: a 24-hour emergency hotline, emergency advocate responses to police stations and hospitals, emergency shelter, other emergency services, pet foster care, counseling, safety planning, visitation services and advocacy. All of these services are free and confidential. Community support and assistance is critical to maintaining and expanding these services.

Statistically, someone that you know has been a victim of gender-based violence. Education, awareness and advocacy are the keys to stopping this devastating public safety and public health problem. The Elizabeth Freeman Center is in the forefront of these efforts and local police departments are fortunate to have them as our ally.

On Thursday, please join us and show your support. You can join by walking with us, forming a team or by making a donation to someone who is walking. Walk a Mile in Her Shoes begins at 6 p.m. at the corner of North Street and Columbus Avenue.

Michael J. Wynn,

Pittsfield

The writer is the chief of police.


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