Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: YWCA fundraiser raises awareness of domestic violence

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October), men and women, including La Jolla resident Sabrina Martucci-Johnson, will stand up to domestic violence — in heels. The YWCA of San Diego County presents its annual fundraiser, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 at Martin Luther King Promenade Park (Fourth and K streets) in downtown San Diego. The short walk is open to men and women, both of which are encouraged to wear high-heeled shoes, to raise awareness for domestic violence and funds for survivors. Participation in the Walk is $50 for adults, children and students are $30, and a family package is $150.

Martucci-Johnson started her participation six years ago to help get the conversation started about domestic violence.

“Even though this is a serious issue, it’s a very lighthearted event. People can wear whatever shoes that want, but some wear high heeled shoes,” she explained. “It’s meant to bring awareness to a challenging issue, one that is difficult for people to discuss, in a fun environment.”

The event itself includes family-friendly festivities, the walk (the duration depends on how comfortable you are in heels) and a post-walk party with food and music by Mojo Johnson.

Providing a platform to talk about domestic violence — which, according to YWCA reports, affects one in four women and one in seven men in their lifetime — is a step toward broader awareness and lifting the stigma some people feel when faced with domestic violence.

“There is this perception that only a certain type of person is affected, but domestic violence can reach all of our communities,” Martucci-Johnson said. “People think there is one type of victim, but its men and women, those of all economic groups, cultural, races. It can affect anyone. When you think about the statistic that one in four women will experience domestic violence, just look at your circle of friends. If you have a circle of four friends, one of them could have experienced it. Its way too common and we need to change that.”

But, she argues, “until we speak up, that isn’t going to change. That’s part of the point of the walk, it gets people talking about it.”

In addition to raising awareness, by normalizing the conversation, those that fear reaching out can feel more comfortable.

“There seems to be a stigma because of the way society characterizes those that have been there and experienced domestic violence,” she said. “Sometimes people fear that stigma and don’t reach out, but things change with awareness. There used to be a stigma for depression and people didn’t talk about it. That’s changed now. We’re in the opportunity to do the same about domestic violence. People can get help without feeling like it’s a reflection on them.”

California law defines domestic violence as abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, roommate, former roommates, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship (California Penal Code Section 13700 [b]).

In San Diego County, 16,719 incidents were reported to law enforcement in 2016, although the majority of cases are never reported due to the complex dynamic of violence within abusive relationships. Proceeds from Walk a Mile in Her Shoes benefit YWCA of San Diego County and its Becky’s House domestic violence programs, which encompass a 24-hour crisis hotline, emergency shelter, transitional housing, legal assistance and integrated supportive services.

Additionally, City Attorney Mara Elliott helped kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month with an information and resource fair at the San Diego Central Library downtown. According to press material, the theme for this month is “It’s up to YOUth” because more than a million high school aged teenagers nationwide experience physical abuse from a partner each year. In particular, social media allows abusers to stalk, threaten, and intimidate victims from cooperating with law enforcement and community support groups. The mission this month is to educate young people about healthy relationships, resource, and how to reach out to suspected victims is a key step in breaking the cycle and ending domestic violence.

Elliott’s City website at sandiego.gov/cityattorney has resources for survivors of domestic violence. Among them, a 24-Hour Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-888-385-4657 (DV-LINKS)

If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, DVLINKS confidential counselors will help connect you with and an advocate. They will provide you with information on confidential shelters, counseling referrals, safety planning and other valuable resources.

Learn more about the Walk at: bit.ly/ywcawalk

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