Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services embraces name change of annual fundraiser

CASSOPOLIS — Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services is taking steps to foster a more inclusive environment.

The nonprofit organization has changed the name of its annual fundraiser from “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” to “Walk A Mile In Their Shoes”.

This year’s fundraiser, a three-week virtual fundraiser in place of its annual in-person fundraiser,  aims to reach a total of over 700 miles — walking or running — to represent the more than 700 survivors who received help from DASAS programs in 2019.

The name was changed because DASAS leadership believed that the event had not been inclusive enough toward men and children victims. According to DASAS, one out of every seven men is physically abused in intimate partner relationships, and one in six individuals is sexually assaulted as a child.

DASAS is an organization serving St. Joseph, Van Buren and Cass counties with the objective of leading efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault in southwest Michigan. It  offers a number of services to domestic and sexual abuse survivors including a 24-hour crisis hotline, counseling, support groups, legal advocacy and access to housing and financial assistance, in addition to many other services.

Dan Moyle, vice president of the board of directors, said the name change has been a topic of conversation the past few years.

“We talked for years about the fact that both domestic and sexual violence are not exclusively victimizing women,” Moyle said. “Women are often the victims, but not always. We don’t want to downplay that men and individuals with nontraditional gender identities or sexual orientations can be victims. While we love the ‘Walk A Mile In Her Shoes’ concept, we wanted to be able to include others.”

In past years, heels were handed out at the walk to symbolize walking a mile in a victim’s shoes. This year, participants are asked to wear shoes symbolizing a person they know who was or is being abused or assaulted or the shoes of a group of victims about which they want to raise awareness.

Moyle said that the organization is having more conversations about inclusion to create a more welcoming environment for victims.

“We’ve seen more conversations about that,” Moyle said. “Having those conversations has opened up a conversation. Primarily, women are coming to us for help, but these convos are letting folks know that you aren’t less of a man for asking for help.”

The challenge can be completed at any time from Saturday, Aug. 1 to 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22. Registration is held online at dasasmi.org/events, and the registration fee is $10.

For Moyle, the decision to make the fundraiser virtual was difficult but necessary in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The entire organization takes the safety of the community seriously,” Moyle said. “We were seeing other campaigns going forward virtually, and we thought we’d give it a try. We have some runners on our team who have seen virtual runs and walks happen. We want to keep communities safe while maintaining awareness and fundraising. We’re making sure we can do something without risk to the community.”

 

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