Approximately 25 personal stories from women who had been sexually abused covered a display at the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event Sunday, sponsored by the Rape Crisis Center of Milford, which serves Milford and neighboring communities.
One woman’s story spoke of being married to a man who began subjecting her to abuse and demanding sexual behavior. “He nearly took my life,” she wrote, recounting that her husband bound and gagged her, terrorized her for hours, and beat her until her face was swollen and her lips were torn.
Another woman told how an uncle groped her at a family event when she was only 5 years old, and she credited her parents for helping her deal with the molestation because they believed her, protected her and let her talk about it.
“Sexual violence must end but it will not until we begin believing the victims,” she wrote above her childhood photograph on the display.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is an event that takes place here and around the country, and is described as the “international men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence.”
Ann Fabian, director of the Rape Crisis Center of Milford, said participation in the march grows each year, and this year she estimated 500 people signed up to walk a mile for the cause downtown, starting at Lisman Landing.
Cuts in funding
Fabian said she hoped the event would raise $20,000, because funding cuts have left the Milford agency scrambling.
“I need to raise a lot of money,” she said. “There have been lots of cuts to funding on different levels.”
The mission of the Rape Crisis Center of Milford, serving Ansonia, Derby, Milford, Orange, Seymour, Shelton, and West Haven, is to eliminate violence and sexual assault through education and prevention and to empower victims to regain control of their lives.
The agency provides a 24/7 free and confidential crisis hotline, legal and medical assistance, counseling, and safety education.
Another woman whose story of abuse was posted on the display at the walk said the services she found at her community’s sexual assault crisis center helped her deal with what she had been through.
‘You stole my chance to decide…’
Another story referred to the ongoing torment a sexual assault victim feels. “You stole more than just my virginity that night,” wrote a woman who was 14 when she was assaulted by a 19-year-old man who had taken her on a date. She pressed charges and he went to jail.
“You stole my chance to decide with whom and when I would have sex,” she wrote, describing the lingering anger and sadness.
According to the report “Rape in America,” one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18, event organizers pointed out.
Bringing attention to
The people who came out to walk Sunday said they believed there needed to be more attention on the issue of assault.
Bill Czarnecki marched with Team Bristol, a group of 10 friends from Bristol. He wore five-inch red heels as he walked near Milford Harbor. “It’s a good cause and we’re glad to help out,” he said.
TJ Stuart, a Natural Helper from Foran High School, was wearing equally high black heels. He said the Rape Crisis Center asked the Natural Helpers to assist at the event, and he was more than willing to volunteer.
TJ said wearing heels helped connect him to the event. “It’s not anything like the pain they went through,” he said, but he noted there was more than a bit of pain, and anticipated callouses, walking in women’s heels.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal attended the event, too, as he has in past years. Blumenthal said he believes it is very important to provide women at their most vulnerable and difficult times of life with this type of service.
“I will do as much as I can to restore funding for this type of program,” Blumenthal said. “It is an investment in people, not an expense, because we can save lives and avoid more serious problems later on.”
People who want to donate to the cause may log on to Rapecrisiscenterofmilford.org.