Walkers encouraged to help victims share abuse experiences

Dozens of men slipped on high-heeled shoes Sunday afternoon and marched down North Boulevard alongside spouses and children to raise awareness for sexual assault victims in the third annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” fundraiser put on by the Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center.

In addition to the nearly mile-long march, the event featured live music from The Dunham School jazz band, gorgeous autumn weather and a beverage stand selling “manmosas,” a cocktail made with a mixture of orange juice and beer.

Lee Guilbeau, a scruffy man still sore from the organization’s “Hunks in Heels” fashion show Thursday night at Restaurant IPO on Third Street, wore short-shorts, a trophy sash labeled “Sassiest” that he earned at the fashion show, and a pair of heels covered in rhinestones and tiny pink polka-dot bow ties.

“I got the socks in the shoes because it’ll help thwart the blisters,” Guilbeau said, laughing a little. “I’ve been practicing for a couple of weeks.”

Participant’s outfits ranged from extravagantly feminine to very masculine.

Greg Moser wore a grey T-shirt, khaki shorts and what looked like black golf cleats converted into heels.

Moser said he tried on some stilettos while shopping at Payless Shoe Source.

“As soon as I put my weight on it, I couldn’t feel my heel at all,” said Moser, a first-time high-heel-wearer.

Despite the lighthearted fun involved with men dressing up in heels, both Guilbeau and Moser as well as other participants noted the seriousness of the issue behind the event.

Organizers encouraged victims, both men and women, to talk to someone about their experience.

“So many women and men hide in fear,” said Stephanie Jacque, vice president of STAR’s Board of Directors.

Racheal Hebert, executive director of STAR, said the main goal of this week’s events was to raise awareness for sexual assault victims, who, once victimized, are much more susceptible to depression, suicidal thoughts, other mental disorders and substance abuse.

Women fall victim to sexual violence much more often than men, Hebert said, adding that it’s important for men — and children — to learn about the long-lasting damage that hiding such traumatic events can cause.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said the need to educate children, particularly, about sexual assault is of the utmost importance so they might have the courage to open up if victimized.

Although Moore wore high heels in last year’s walk, recovery from a recent surgery forced him into running shoes for this year’s walk, he said.

Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, on the other hand, donned a pair of white, 2-inch comfort pumps for the walk. Dabadie said he asked his wife to buy him heels under one condition: Find the biggest size possible.

“It’s all worth it,” Dabadie said. “A little embarrassment is good.”

Editor’s note: This story was modified on Sept. 23, 2013, to correct the name of the band that performed at this event. It was The Dunham School Jazz Band, not the Denham Springs High School jazz band. The Advocate regrets the error.