Tuesday April 2, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Rather than hold its annual "Take Back the Night" walk in conjunction with Sexual Violence Awareness Month, this April the Project Against Violent Encounters will host something a little different.

It will still be a walk, but the footwear involved may be more diverse.

Jill Sander, housing advocate for PAVE, said the "Walk A Mile In Her Shoes" event has been done all across the United States and in other countries. The original event involved men walking a mile in high-heeled shoes, but Sander said the Bennington event is open to any gender and will not be limited to high heels. However, offbeat or unusual footwear is encouraged.

Sponsored by r.k. Miles, the event is scheduled for April 27 with registration starting at 9 a.m. at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Pleasant Street. The walk will begin at 9:30 a.m. and go down Main Street to Depot Street, River Street, and North Street, and back to the church.

Sander said those walking in Bennington are being asked to donate $10 and an item to support PAVE’s shelter. She said the money will help PAVE’s general expenses but the items, which can include hygiene products, nonperishable food, kitchen items, bedding, clothes, and towels, will be used for sheltering violence victims who need a place to stay. Walkers are also encouraged to bring signs supporting victims of sexual violence.

She said PAVE hopes more men will be involved with the walk as the event was chosen to engage that demographic at a greater level.

Another event being sponsored by PAVE this month will be a screening of the documentary "The Invisible War," which is a film about sexual assault in the military. Sander said a location and time has not been established for this but Angela Lackey, sexual assault response coordinator for the Vermont National Guard, will be a guest speaker at the screening to field questions those attending may have.

According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey 2010, having been the victim of sexual assault greatly increases a person’s likelihood of thinking about suicide or turning to drugs and alcohol. Slightly more than half of all sexual assaults go unreported to police, 97 percent of rapists serve no jail time, and women are more likely to be raped than die in a car crash. According to the statistics provided, the majority of sex assault victims, 22 million in the U.S., are women, but 2.78 million are men.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr