The CARES organization called upon all men in the county to “Walk a Block in Her Shoes,” as part of a concerted effort during the month of October to raise awareness about domestic violence in the county. Fifty men answered that call, including some of the most prominent men in communities throughout the basin. Judges, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, bankers, a state senator and even a few county commissioners showed their support for the CARES program by putting on a pair of pink high heels and feather boa, and taking symbolic steps towards understanding and preventing domestic violence.
“I was really surprised by how many were willing to participate,” said CARES Director Leslie Hoffman. “The good-natured willingness of so many Big Horn County men to participate was impressive and we appreciate their support.”
The men were nominated by their peers to put on the pink as part of a fun campaign to raise awareness about a very serious issue. CARES supplied the outfits, and no man refused to brave the challenge. Most men who walked in the shoes reported the task to be difficult, in part because it was harder than they expected to walk in high heels but also because it was hard for them to think about the violence toward women that happens so close to home.
“I would really hate to see our legal system not have CARES,” said Lovell Police Chief Nick Lewis. “They are vital to the system and they help victims so much with everything from notifying them of trials to advocating restitution.”
CARES works closely with law enforcement to help victims of domestic, sexual and other forms of violence. The organization has been in existence for more than 25 years. Four specially trained staff from the organization help victims understand the criminal justice system and point them in the direction of other resources that are available to them during their ordeal.
In the fiscal year 2013, CARES helped 226 victims of domestic violence. Of those victims, 151 were female and 75 were male. Victims were of all ages. Victimization included domestic violence (27 percent), sexual abuse of a child (11 percent), property damage and vandalism (10 percent), assaults (10 percent), stalking (7 percent), adults reporting having been molested as children (7 percent), burglary (7 percent) and dating violence (.02 percent).
“The CARES organization is often the first to be called upon by law enforcement to bring support to victims,” said Lewis.
The campaign raised $470, which covered the cost of providing the shoes, boas and other expenses connected with the campaign.
“The campaign wasn’t about raising money,” said Hoffman. “It was never about the money. It was always about raising awareness and I think we were very successful in that regard. We were just happy to have our costs covered for the shoes and the boas and any leftover money will be used to help victims.”
“Walk a Block” is a national campaign, Hoffman explained. In many areas, participants walk together. Hoffman said she and other organizers decided to go directly to people instead of having a group walk because the county is so big and spread out.
“I think the way we did it worked better for our county,” said Hoffman. “I think we got better participation than we would have with a group walk and I was really happy with the response we got. I feel like the campaign was a big success.”
By Patti Carpenter