As society slowly comes around to the fact that violence against women and girls isn’t just a women’s issue, a growing number of men are speaking out against the still all-too-common violent acts perpetrated against their mothers, sisters, daughters and friends.
On Thursday, May 12, a few hundred men pledged to play an active role in combating violence against women, strutting down Yonge Street in high heels for the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.
Organized by the White Ribbon campaign, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes raises funds and awareness to promote the role men can play in stopping violence against women. The campaign itself focuses on the importance of men and boys refusing to commit or condone violence against women and pledging to speak out against it.
Glen Canning, who attended the event for the first time, was touched to see the growing number of men who are acknowledging and embracing their role in stopping violence against women. Canning’s daughter, Rehtaeh Parsons, tragically died by suicide following an alleged sexual assault by four boys while drunk at a party.
“There’s a lot of significance for me seeing men taking a more active role when it comes to violence against women,” Canning said. “The guys here know it’s not okay and they’re bringing that message out to the community. That’s what has to happen for all men, and especially young men.”
Canning believes that, had more people been willing to speak up against violence against women – including sexual violence – in years past, his daughter would still be alive today.
“If people took on this kind of role 10 years ago, I think someone would have stood up for (Parsons) and stopped it,” he said. “Even the ones who slut-shamed and victim-blamed her would have known that what they were doing was not acceptable.”
White Ribbon campaign executive director Todd Minerson noted that Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, which took place for the seventh year on Thursday, was key to mobilizing men and boys, who he said constituted “one of the missing links in the fight against violence against women and girls.”
“We’re definitely seeing more enthusiasm and more corporate and individual participants,” he said, noting Thursday’s event featured roughly 700 participants who combined to raise $138,000. “In the first couple of years, you’d see guys walking up with a bit of a look of terror – “am I in the right place? Will I be the only guy here?”
He added that the subject of violence against women is still uncomfortable for some and said it can be challenging to get some men to pledge to speak out. He realizes there is a long way to go on that front, but he and a growing number of others are determined to keep advocating the involvement of men in keeping women and girls free from violence.
“This is a starting point, not an end point,” he said.
Tracy MacCharles, provincial Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues, reiterated the Ontario government’s commitment to ending sexual violence against women through the It’s Never Okay action plan, which urges all people to step up and be counted in the battle against sexual violence.
Inside Toronto News.