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Men ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ Saturday at IVH

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM - Marshall County Sheriff’s Deputy D.L. Dean talks to attendees of the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event on Saturday. The annual walk was held at the 13th Street District and the Iowa Veterans Home.

An annual event has taken the well-known idiom of walking a mile in someone’s shoes and made it the central theme. The saying is intended to remind people to empathize with others.

The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event brought 25 participants to the 13th Street District and the Iowa Veterans Home on Saturday. It was organized by the chairman of the FARST (Friends Actively Recreating to Support Transformation) Foundation, president of the Eto Rho Sigma chapter and Full Tilt Riders Motorcycle Club of Central Iowa member D.L. Dean, who is also a deputy with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office.

The Walk a Mile was previously held in a different Marshalltown location. Dean said they used to start at the Marshall County Courthouse and walk through downtown. Then the derecho occurred, which canceled the walk in 2020. Finally, the event got a new location when Dean, who is a veteran, wanted to make it easier for fellow veterans to participate.

“I talked to the commandant and they allowed us to use the property because it’s a good., therapeutic thing for the residents,” Dean said. “This is the second year doing it here.”

The IVH residents want to be a part of the community of Marshalltown, he said.

“They want to do things, but they are limited to whatever their capabilities are,” Dean said. “If we continue to bring things away from them, they can’t be a part of it.”

Keeping that in mind, he is also organizing a 10K or 15K ruck march on the IVH campus the day before Veterans Day. That march will raise money for the African American military museum in Des Moines, Dean said.

“We’re doing that so [veterans] can have activities and be a part of the community and they don’t have to go far,” he said.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LEIGH BAUDER – Walk a Mile in Her Shoes participants pause for a moment during the Saturday event. Roughly 25 people attended.

Walk a Mile is an international organization intended to end sexualized violence by having people, particularly men, walk a mile in high heels to show solidarity with victims. Normally Walk a Mile participants wear red high heeled shoes during the walk. Dean said the shoes on Saturday were donated by sponsors. Spouses and loved ones were invited to walk with them for support because sometimes the participants will fall and stumble. The women were encouraged to wear tennis shoes.

“It is to highlight and communicate a plague that is happening in our community,” he said. “We bring this to Marshalltown to raise money for ACCESS for children who have experienced sexualized violence at home or school and try to get them counseling.”

The children have been silenced for too long, Dean said.

“They usually feel they don’t have anyone to communicate with,” he said. “The pain we feel in this mile we walk in the heels demonstrates that.”

Dean has been with the MCSO for 22 years, and said the number of assaults occurring will always be underreported.

“Men don’t report, children don’t report,” he said. “This isn’t going to reduce the numbers. We want heightened reporting so therefore you’re not going to see a change in the numbers, per se.”

Dean said he himself is a survivor of sexualized violence from his childhood. He could have become a victim, but chose a different option.

“I used my voice and everything I’ve done to propel this and communicate to juveniles and let them know it’s OK to talk about it,” Dean said. “Don’t villainize it. Don’t dig it down because it puts a pit, and then you have bad relationships in the future.”

He said that could be why some women are abrasive toward men. It is not that they do not want to be around men, but they were previously abused or mistreated.

“They’ve never been able to deal with that,” Dean said. “That is the biggest message – to be able to communicate, that we don’t have to be quiet. We all have things that have happened. I used to be afraid to put my face out there. You could tell what I say, but I don’t want you to show my picture. If I’m not brave about it, why would I ask other people to be brave and talk?”

SUBMITTED PHOTO -Chris Anderson gives his high-heeled feet a rest during Walk a Mile in Her Shoes on Saturday. The event was held on the 13th Street District and Iowa Veterans Home.

By bringing communication to the forefront, he also hopes additional events will be held in Marshalltown. Dean said Walk a Mile should not be the only yearly one. There was also no goal for how much money was raised. Rather, the focus remained on communication.

“It’s more about the message,” he said. “Maybe one year we will get to the point where we can say this is what we would like to raise.”

In addition to bringing an end to sexualized violence, Dean said they try to have a multiple purpose to the Walk a Mile event. After the walk ended at 2 p.m., the Full Tilt motorcycle club celebrated its anniversary by going on a 100-mile ride through Marshall County, visiting all of the communities and patronizing local businesses. Dean said they also participated in a walk and highway cleanup for multiple sclerosis (MS) on Sunday. The Full Tilt fundraising partner is the National MS Society.

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Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 ext. 210 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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