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Walk a Mile in Her Shoes shows support

Bidal Duran struts along Paul Bunyan Drive Saturday morning in his red high heels in participation of the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event to increase awareness of rape, sexual assault and gender violence. brian matthews | bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI- If you drove along Paul Bunyan Drive Saturday morning you may have seen a group of guys walking in high heels. In addition to showing off their calves, the walkers were walking to increase awareness to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence.

"It is something that men can do, even just briefly, to show their support and say 'we're the good guy and we will put and end to this and not hide from it," said Cassondra Johnson-Blackbird with the Bemidji Sexual Assault Program.

Bemidji's first annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event was held Saturday, with men tossing away their pride for a morning to show their respect for the more than 200,000 victims of sexual assault each year.

Johnson-Blackbird said Bemidji got the idea from Brainerd, Grand Rapids and International Falls who have held similar events over the years.

The International Men's March started in 2001 and since has grown to become a worldwide event for thousands raising money for local rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and other sexualized violence education and prevention programs.

According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, the event is meant to shed light on these cases and increase people's awareness.

"My mother-in-law actually got me involved in International Falls a few years ago and I used to take photos of guys in high heels for the Marine Corps," walk participant Bidal Duran said." I had to come down here since they have never done one here before

Getting high heels big enough for the men to wear is a challenge. Johnson-Blackbird said. The International Falls walk special ordered women's shoes big enough for the men to fit in.

"We just had to find the biggest shoes that we can," Johnson-Blackbird said.

Johnson-Blackbird said she was happy with the turn out at the first event. She said they did not set a goal for donations and ordered 50 t-shirts for walkers. All proceeds from the event went to Northwoods Coalition for Family Safety and the Sexual Assault Program.

Women were welcome to walk to show their support, but they could do so in the comfort of their own walking shoes.