Society must work to end sexual abuse

As April heralds the arrival of spring and the leaving of winter behind, it also is a time to raise awareness of and push back at a dark, often silent aspect of our society – sexual assault.

Sexual assault victim advocates and supporters gathered this week to increase the public’s awareness of the crime via the 10th annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.

Held at Northern Michigan University, more than 100 people of all ages listened to speakers who work with victims of assault.

The presentations were followed by the “walk,” which includes dozens of men walking a mile in women’s shoes – a symbolic gesture to show understanding and the willingness to raise awareness of sexual assault.

Many of the walkers were NMU students, with several student organizations represented. This is an appropriate age for such an awareness event, seeing many college students are away from home for the first time and have concerns about the issue.

It also allows many younger people to talk about sexual abuse, something that needs to be done to help reduce sexual assaults.

“Sexual violence thrives in silence,” said Kelly Laakso, sexual assault victim advocate at the Marquette Women’s Center and Harbor House, which is a domestic violence refuge that sees its share of sexual assault victims.

She said the vast majority of sexual assault go unreported, with many offenders never being held accountable.

This has to change in our society, and having as many people as possible be aware of the problems with sexual assault and come out in support of the victims – as well as speak up if witnessing a sex crime – the sooner that vital change will come.

Events such as Walk a Mile in her Shoes are certainly a step in the right direction in increasing that awareness, as well as helping to eliminate the stigma and shame that many victims suffer from.