Susan Birns: Bring the kids to Walk A Mile event

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NORTH ADAMS — Kids are like sponges; they have an incredible capacity to absorb what's around them — for better and worse. While many boys with battered mothers do their best to try to protect them, and many of these boys grow up to be nurturing, non-violent fathers and husbands, it is also true that the single greatest risk factor for a boy becoming a batterer is for him to grow up in a home where his mother is being beaten.

Girls, too, are constantly absorbing what is going on around them. While the media sends them many powerful messages about what their bodies should look like and that their self and societal worth is defined by the types and number of men they can attract, they are also being influenced by the behavior and relationships of those they see on a daily basis.

MODEL BEHAVIORS

For these reasons and many more, it is vitally important that on both the individual and community levels we model the behaviors we want to see in future generations. We need to exercise empathy for others who may look and act differently from us. We need to be kind to each other and disdain bullying in every form that it takes. We need to intervene when as bystanders we witness someone else in need of assistance. We need to appreciate the richness of difference. And it is imperative that we break down gender-based stereotypes and the violence that can all too easily accompany them.

Working for social change is serious work and it is accomplished in many varied arenas. Locally, at least once a year, we come together as a community to stand up to the issue of gender-based violence — in the middle of a community party!

The 9th Annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes will take place this week Thursday, Sept. 19, during downtown Pittsfield's final Third Thursday celebration of 2019. An extremely diverse group of people will walk one mile up and down North Street in women's shoes, taking a stand against all forms of gender-based violence while raising much needed funds to provide services to survivors and prevention education and advocacy in the community. Registration begins at 5 p.m. at Persip Park on the corner of North Street and Columbus Avenue and after a very brief rally, walkers step off the curb at 6 p. m.

It is not too late for you to participate in this year's event and all walkers are welcome! Individuals are each asked (not required) to raise a minimum of $55 by securing donations from their friends, families, and colleagues to sponsor their walk. The $55 raised entitles the walker to a free event t-shirt. Shoes will be available at the event, but very large sizes are limited in quantity. Men can opt to wear a pair of their own shoes, as long as they decorate them (temporary forms of decoration will be provided on site). Pledge sheets are available at all Elizabeth Freeman Center (EFC) offices as well as online at www.elizabethfreemancenter.org.

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A significant group of businesses and organizations from all over the county are putting their names and money to this cause as walk underwriters. They include: Onyx Specialty Papers; Iredale Mineral Cosmetics; Annie Selke; Berkshire Health Systems; Haddad Dealerships of the Berkshires; Health New England; Berkshire Bank Foundation; Greylock Federal Credit Union; J.H.Maxymillian; Black Rock Foundation; Lee Bank; Blue Q; Pittsfield UNICO; Unistress; Adams Community Bank; NBT Bank; Donovan O'Connor & Dodge; Cohen Kinne Valicenti & Cook; Only in My Dreams Events; Scarafoni Financial Group; Crescent Creamery; Interprint; Cain Hibbard & Myers; East Elm Pediatrics; Rotary Club of Pittsfield; Guido's Fresh Marketplace; GB Eats; and Berkshire OB/GYN.

All walk proceeds benefit the Elizabeth Freeman Center, Berkshire County's provider of services and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Services include a 24-hour hotline, shelter, counseling, court advocacy, supervised visitation, safe pets, financial literacy/independence, and specialized services for immigrants, rural residents, and LGBQT. Violence prevention education is provided to children and youth in day care programs and schools.

We have offices in North Adams, Pittsfield, and Great Barrington and staff located in the Adams and Pittsfield Police Departments, county courts, and Berkshire County Kids' Place. In 2018 the agency provided direct victim services for over 2,600 survivors from almost every city and town in Berkshire County. Last fall walkers and underwriters helped us raise over $90,000 to help fund these vitally needed services and more than 800 people participated in this event.

SHARED RESPONSIBILITY

During the past five years, 10 women and children have died in Berkshire County, victims of domestic violence. Now more than ever, we need your support!

This Thursday, as we take to the streets en masse, we will explain to our children that not everyone is safe in their own homes, but they should be, and we will demonstrate for them that we all have a responsibility to bring that vision to fruition.

Sponges can soak up slime or they can soak up soap bubbles depending upon what's in their vicinity. What do you want in the vicinity of your children?

Dr. Susan Birns is a member of the Board of Directors of Elizabeth Freeman Center and Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.


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