While the law provides a much-needed deterrent in preventing violence against women, education is what will turn the tide against this lingering societal blight.
Jan Morgan is ready to educate his six-month-old grandson about this critical issue.
The Chatham man began Tuesday by bringing his grandson, Noah Finch, with him as he donned a pair of red high heels to join more than 60 men who took part in the 11th annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes fundraiser for the Chatham-Kent Women’s Centre, held at the Chatham Campus of St. Clair College.
Noah wore red knitted booties as he slept soundly through the walk while being pushed in his stroller.
This was Morgan’s third year taking part in the event.
“I know people who have had to use women’s shelters in different communities … and it’s well-needed, unfortunately,” he said.
Morgan was impressed to see so many young men from the college take part.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” he said. “They obviously haven’t been forced to be here, so they do have awareness and they do want to make a difference.”
Connor McAlorum, 20, who is studying to be a paramedic, took part in the walk for the first time.
He said young men aren’t as aware of the issue of violence against women as they “should be.”
“It just needs to be more brought into the light,” he said, adding it’s a “touchy subject” for many people.
Nathan Wideman, 19, of Waterloo, who is in the powerline technician program, also took part in the walk for the first time.
He also acknowledged awareness of this issue could be better among young men.
“I want to say, hopefully we learn,” said Wideman, adding he believes it’s an issue that needs to be talked about more.
Matt Curran, 21, who is taking police foundations, heard about the issue of violence against women from his police officer father.
He said an event like Walk A Mile In Her Shoes helps raise awareness of the services that are available to support people.
“It’s good to get that message. It’s OK to step forward and come and get that counselling, come to that safe place,” Curran said.
Women’s centre executive director Karen Hunter said the shelter has been serving about 1,000 women and children, and some men, annually.
“Over the last couple of years, what we’ve noticed is an increase in the number of clients that we’re serving,” she said.
The shelter has been “filled to capacity,” said Hunter, adding there’s a waiting list for emergency shelter services and programs for women and children.
“Ideally, we want to have zero incidents in regards to domestic violence,” Chatham-Kent Police Service Chief Gary Conn said. “Unfortunately, the reality is that is not the case.”
While police take a zero tolerance stance on violence against women, the chief said the public is “more importantly” embracing that same approach.
“I look forward to the day we don’t need to do this (fundraiser), because (violence against women) doesn’t happen,” Mayor Darrin Canniff added.
While deterrence is needed, Hunter said education is a key piece.
She said it is important to get into the school system to talk to young people about “what are the warning signs in relationships.” .
“What are positive, healthy relationships, and about the forms of violence and abuse, so that people identify: ‘This doesn’t look or feel right to me, I shouldn’t be in this situation,’” Hunter said.
Initial figures showed the event raised about $10,000.