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Hundreds Walk In Rutland To Fight Domestic Violence

Despite freezing temperatures, about five hundred people gathered in Rutland Sunday for a walk to benefit the Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter.

Sunday’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoesevent was modeled after the International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence. The idea is to have participants literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes to bring attention to the problems of domestic violence and raise funds for community programs that help.

Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Castleton resident Jerry Jokinen donned red pumps Sunday morning for the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march in Rutland. Hundreds attended the event which was held to bring attention to the plight of those hurt by domestic violence.

The high heels were optional, but many, like Wallingford resident BastianAuer, went all out. He wore shiny red pumps with a black kilt. Walking with his wife and two children, Auer said he felt it was important to make a statement against domestic violence.

“The attention needs to be here, it’s been in the shadows too long. By walking proud and getting people engaged and making a bit of a scene we can encourage other people to come forward and empower them to make those changes and just make it OK to talk about.”

Some participants used red duct tape to cover their shoes while others attached red bows or ribbons to show support.

Avaloy Lanning, executive director of the Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter, didn’t have final numbers, but said Sunday’s event would raise much more than their $50,000 goal.

Smiling as she made her way through the crowd she called the increased awareness priceless.

“I am so overjoyed by this turnout. It’s beautiful seeing all these people in their red shoes and red mittens because it’s so cold, but nobody cares because they’re all so happy to be here.”

"It’s overwhelming,” added Lanning, “and I hope I can get through what I need to say without crying, because it’s beautiful. It’s really beautiful.” 

Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Flanked by supporters, Rutland resident Tracy Babbitt led the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes March on Sunday. Babbitt told the crowd that for many years she was a victim of domestic violence before she was able to break free.

Lanning and several others addressed the crowd before the walk started.   

Perhaps the most powerful comments came from Tracy Babbitt, who jokingly asked how comfortable everyone was in in their high heels and the cold weather. “If you don’t mind I want to make you just a little bit more uncomfortable," she went on more seriously. "Every 60 seconds, 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner.  One in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of domestic violence in their lifetime.”

Babbit admitted she too had been victimized for years, but thanks to shelters and advocates like those in Rutland she had fought her way to freedom. 

“Domestic and sexual violence hides in the dark corners called shame,” she told the crowd. “This is what keeps us from talking about it. I chose to stand here today in front of all of you because I want to be an example and talk about it and end the shame involved in these secrets.”

The crowd began clapping and Babbit told them that others can break free too, but only if those in their community help. 

Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Hundreds gathered in downtown Rutland Sunday morning for the first ever Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march to fight domestic violence. Organizers say the event raised more than $50,000 for the Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter.


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