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Men — sporting high heels — take to SLO County streets to fight sexual assault

Men in heels march downtown San Luis Obispo to prevent violence for women

The 15th annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event took place in downtown San Luis Obispo on Saturday, April 29, 2017. Combined with the three other marches that took place across San Luis Obispo County, organizers said it raised more than $50,000.
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The 15th annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event took place in downtown San Luis Obispo on Saturday, April 29, 2017. Combined with the three other marches that took place across San Luis Obispo County, organizers said it raised more than $50,000.

Walking a mile in towering heels was next to no issue for Matt Bush on Saturday, considering that last year he was been strapped into two left shoes after arriving late to the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march.

So, determined to avoid the issue at this year’s event, he purchased a pair of his own heels: silver stilettos.

“I was like, ‘I think I got the wrong size,’ ” he said during the Saturday walk. “And (my wife, Adrienne Bush) was just like, ‘No, they’re all uncomfortable.’ 

Bush was just one of hundreds of men, wobbling about in high heels, who took to the sidewalks of San Luis Obispo on Saturday morning in hopes of shedding light on and raising money to end sexual assault.

Organizers said the 15th annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, during which men (and women) donned high heels while walking a mile, was the largest one yet in San Luis Obispo County — and the most fruitful. In total, four marches across San Luis Obispo County — in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande and at Cuesta College — raised more than $50,000, Megan Rivoire, co-coordinator of the walk said.

The event was hosted by Rise, a non-profit that provides treatment and intervention services to survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones. Close to 200 people registered for the event, Rivoire said, but between 300 and 400 showed up to walk.

“I’m really amazed at how our community has come together to support survivors and bring these issues to light,” she said. “It’s a really serious topic that’s not always easy to talk about.”

Since Bush began participating in 2004, he’s noticed that the conversation about sexual assault has evolved as awareness of the issue becomes more widespread — thanks in part to events like the one Saturday.

“When people see your husband in heels,” Adrienne Bush, 30, said, “it’s a great conversation starter.”

Not everyone was as weathered a participant as Bush, though. By the end of the walk, there were several men who had forfeited heels in favor of going barefoot.

Other first-time walkers included 47-year-old Abe Lincoln of Los Osos. Sporting bright red heels — “It feels so good not to walk in these shoes anymore,” he said when the walk was completed and he’d put his own shoes back on — and a bright “the future is female” T-shirt, Lincoln said he felt inspired to get involved after seeing the Women’s March and protests in support of Planned Parenthood.

“As a dad,” he said, “I’m trying to be a role model, trying to be part of the community and make it a safer place for everyone.”

Megan Henney: 805-781-7915, @megan_henney

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