On April 26, 2017, several faculty members wore jeans and high heels and walked around the middle of campus. There may have been weird looks and laughs from students, but the faculty walked proudly, as they were participating in the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event in coordination with Denim Day. “The image of a bunch of teachers walking through the quad in platforms is lighthearted, but I really look forward to the serious conversation that happens after a student says, ‘Why were you doing that?’”, said Mr. Creech.
Denim Day is a worldwide event that was first established 18 years ago due to a “ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent” (denimdayinfo.org/about/). It is held in April, which happens to be Sexual Violence Awareness Month.
The “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event was started at Bellarmine in 2009 after Mr. Swenson invited the faculty and staff to participate in the same event in downtown San Jose organized by the YWCA as part of Denim Day. Ms. Bauman believed it would be a good idea to start a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event at Bellarmine and proceeded to organize one with Mr. Swenson. In terms of reasoning behind the starting of the event, Ms. Bauman added, “I thought it might be a good idea to have our own Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event at Bellarmine so that we could bring even more attention to and inspire more discussions on our campus of the issue of sexual assault.” Mr. Swenson and Ms. Bauman have been coordinating the event annually ever since.
Despite a strong idea to start the event, one might wonder, why should such an event be held at Bellarmine, an all-boys school? Ms. Bauman shared, “Learning about the court case that inspired Denim Day is especially important for our community because it sheds light on the many layers involved sexual assault cases and shows us that it this is a social justice issue that we must continue to work on, whether we are individually involved in a case or not.” Mr. Meyercord, who participated in the event, added, “it is really important that, as an all-male school, we are particularly mindful of issues related to violence against women. It is a very serious problem, and one that Bells can help to prevent both now and in the future.”
Additionally, high school students have a lot to learn from the message of awareness about the realities of sexual violence that Denim Day promotes. Ms. Bauman stressed the importance of this topic around high school seniors in particular as they “may already know someone who has been assaulted or someone who is a potential victim or offender.” Unfortunately, there is a high number of sexual assaults happening on college campuses around the nation. She believes that as a school, “We need to do more to discuss ending sexual assault, being allies to sexual assault victims, and how we can make a difference in how the laws and courts address sexual assault cases and the people involved.”
As some students and faculty may remember, we as a school held Justice Summits on both masculinity and human trafficking. During our summit on masculinity in 2014, we learned what it really means to be a man. A man in not simply one who is tough on the outside like pop culture portrays it to be, but rather one who provides services and acts to create a better society. Additionally, in 2015, our eyes were opened to the harsh reality of human trafficking and the actions we can take. These two justice summits relate to the current issue that Denim Day presents as we can use the lessons we’ve learned during both summits to help combat the prevalent issue of sexual violence.
When asked about why they participated, teachers had expressed the importance of the event and how they wanted to support the movement. Mr. Haven said, “As males, our boys don’t experience directly the myriad ways sexism presents itself in our society, and days like this are one way we can bring these issues to their attention”. Additionally, Mr. Taylor, who has a daughter employed in the Peace Corps in Washington D.C. who is promoting awareness and prevention of sexual assault, added, ““I am happy to respond her – as a husband and father of a daughter, the issue of sexual assault is very important to me – as human beings, the dignity and welfare of all should be paramount in our hearts – power can be misused and people (both men & women) can be manipulated and abused and this is not ok – all people should be accepted and treated with respect and care – the golden rule, “treat others the way you wish to be treated” should be followed”. Mr. Zuniga provided an astonishing piece of data and said, “According to YWCA “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” campaign, sexual assault in California occurs every 56 minutes. I am determined to do whatever I can to raise awareness to change this unacceptable stat.”