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St. Louis event seeks solidarity in sexual assault prevention

Allegations of sex offenses are much more common against men than against women. But as a recent event in St. Louis showed, problems of sexual violence are not merely a matter of men against women.

Earlier this month, about 200 men rallied in downtown St. Louis to show solidarity with women who face sexual assault. The men dressed for the part, wearing high-heeled shoes of a type often worn by female impersonators. The shoes were a bright red that would not have been out of place on a St. Louis Cardinals' baseball uniform.

The event carried the title "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes." St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson was among the participants.

When particular sex crimes occur, it can seem all too easy to try to pin the blame on individuals. This is particular true of individual men.

But sexual violence is also a cultural problem. It reflects underlying issues in how people are socialized into their gender roles.

Addressing these issues doesn't only involved arresting people for sexual assault or other sex offenses. It is also a matter of teaching values of respect and dignity to people of both genders. This is especially true for young people because their views on sexual conduct are still forming.

To help shape these views, events like "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" are intended to model positive values on the interaction between men and women. Such events are been going on for over a decade in various parts of the country. 

A nonprofit group in California sponsors the event with help from local partners. In St. Louis, the local partner was the YWCA of Metro St. Louis.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Men walk in high heels to combat sexual assault of women," Tim Bryant, June 8, 2013

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