Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is no easy task. People’s feet are different sizes and shapes, and because of the baggage they carry, their shoes may be worn in places another person’s feet need cushioning.
“Intimate partner violence defies everything we were taught about love and relationships,” Monique Russell, Army Community Service’s Family Advocacy Program manager, said. “Walking in another individuals shoes means allowing yourself to really understand what it must feel like to fear someone you love, to feel the weight of hiding this secret from your family and friends.”
Throughout the month of October, Fort Hood’s Family Advocacy Program is hosting its annual “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes,” a walk designed to raise awareness about domestic abuse and show support to victims. The worldwide walk began in 2001 by Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence.
Russell explained that while people judge someone for not leaving an abusive partner, not don’t stop to realize how difficult it is, both physically and emotionally because they are suffering from fear, shame and heartbreak.
Because domestic violence is not generalized to a specific gender, the event has expanded throughout the years to include all victims of domestic abuse. Just like it’s not easy for a man to wear a woman’s shoes, it’s also not easy for a woman to wear a man’s shoes, which was the original intent of the walk.
“This event is usually held in various locations, where we have shoes of all sizes for men and women to put on the shoes and walk in them,” Russell explained. “This gives them an opportunity to see how the other person feels and the weight of what that person is carrying in life.”
Due to the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, the event has been moved virtually, with the FAP requesting people wear purple, take a picture of themselves walking and send to the FAP office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teams will be walking around the Shoemaker Center from 11 a.m. to p.m., every Friday in October.
“Our goal is to raise awareness by challenging Fort Hood and our surrounding community to clock 50,000 to 100,000 miles as a means to end domestic violence,” she said.
Russell said now, with a lot of people stuck at home with their abusers, it is extremely important to raise awareness and provide support for victims. She said this year’s campaign is a reminder for people that domestic violence is an ever-present danger, especially during this time of isolation.
“Getting help for an abusive relationship is difficult, and during a global crisis, it can be an even greater challenge. The public health measures designed to slow COVID-19 have created conditions of isolation and dependency that may contribute to domestic abuse,” she said. “Stay-at-home and quarantine orders have increased risk factors for victims and may cut them off from friends, relatives and safe havens such as shelters. This year’s campaign is focused on informing family and friends of victims about how they can help, and reminding victims that assistance is always available.”
Military OneSource has information available to people suspecting abuse in their friends or loved ones, with assistance in more than 140 different languages. The free, confidential hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at 800-799-7233 or 800-787-3224 for the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing. People can also visit www.thehotline.org.
They also offer tips for abuse victims, such as creating scheduled check-ins with trusted friends, family or neighbors over the phone, text or via social media. If the victim does not reach out, it can tip them off that something is wrong.
Making phone calls or texts that may be monitored by an abuser can be difficult. Military OneSource recommends going to the bathroom and running the shower or faucet while making a call, which can add a layer of privacy. Developing a code word or phrase to share with a support system to covertly indicate when there is an emergency.
Keeping an emergency bag with a change of clothes for oneself and any children, medications, spare cash, phone chargers and IDs, can help a victim escape quickly.
Victims can receive 24-hour support by calling 800-342-9647 or 800-342-9647 for the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing. During an emergency, always call 911.