Shoes help tell the stories of domestic abuse victims

October 06, 2003|by DON AINES

SCOTLAND, Pa. - "These are the shoes I was wearing the last time Andy beat me," stated the card accompanying a pair of dark blue dress shoes, one with a missing heel.

Next to a pair of girl's shoes was a card that read, "I watched my mom change into a very strong person. When she decided to change her life, my life and the lives of my brother and sister also changed."

There is a saying about not judging someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. "Walk a Day In My Shoes," an exhibit touring Franklin and Fulton counties this month, tells the stories of a dozen survivors of domestic violence.


"The shoes that we have are all stories from the victims themselves," said Stacy McCole, education coordinator for Women In Need, which provides counseling, shelter and other services to about 1,200 victims of domestic violence each year in the two counties.

"That's a pretty standard number. It doesn't change much from year to year," McCole said of the statistic.

From worn moccasins and sandals, to sneakers and dress shoes, each pair represents a turning point in the lives of the survivors. The owner of one particularly bright-colored pair of high heels wrote about how she felt she lived in darkness during her years as a victim.

"This method of expressing themselves has proved very powerful" for the survivors as well as the viewers of the exhibit, McCole said at St. Luke's Evangelical Church near Scotland, Pa., where the exhibit was set up for the morning service. The rest of the weekend, it was on view at Chambersburg Mall.

On Tuesday and Wednesday it will be at the Franklin County Courthouse and it is scheduled to be at several other locations throughout October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It debuted Oct. 1 at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pa., where advocates held a rally to try and convince state legislators to restore funds for domestic violence programs.

The survivors who donated shoes range from a teenage girl to middle-aged women and include one man, who wrote, "These are the shoes that I was wearing the night my boyfriend beat me up."

"When I look at my shoes and think how worn the soles are, I can see my former self," the man wrote. Adult men represent about 3 percent of those who contact WIN seeking protection from abuse orders, counseling and other services, McCole said.

The exhibit includes domestic violence statistics supplied by the U.S. Department of Justice and other sources. For example, 92 percent of domestic violence incidents involve crimes by men against women, according to the justice department.

There are other activities throughout the month, according to McCole. At 8 p.m. Oct. 14, WIN will host a victim impact panel at Penn State Mont Alto in the multipurpose building, during which survivors will share what they did to get out of violent relationships.

For more information about the shoe project schedule and WIN services, call 717-264-3056.

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