Journey to end domestic violence begins with mile-long walk in high heels

Food, music and flowers are common sights at the Portland Farmer’s Market, which has been taking place in the North Park Blocks of Portland State’s campus since 1992. A less common sight at the market: over a dozen men marching in high heels, flanked by supporters carrying signs demanding an end to silence about domestic violence.

The “Walk a Mile in their Shoes” event on Oct. 28, organized by Alpha Chi Omega’s PSU chapter, sought to increase awareness about the prevalence of domestic violence and advocate for preventative education.

Before donning heels and weaving through the crowds at Portland Farmer’s Market on their mile-long walk, attendees pledged to never condone, commit, or stay silent about abuse. There was also a station where people could write letters of support to survivors.

“‘Walk a Mile in her Shoes’ is the typical event name for Alpha Chi’s across the nation,” explained London Klauer, Alpha Chi Omega’s vice president of philanthropy. She explained typically it was a fraternity event, where all the frats put on heels and walk a mile while the girls watched.

“We changed it to ‘in their shoes’ because it’s really important to understand that domestic violence affects more than just women…it affects everyone,” Klauer said.

One third of women in Oregon have experienced domestic violence. Traditionally college-aged women experience rates of partner violence higher than any other age group, and nationwide statistics show that roughly one in five students have experienced domestic violence.

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that women of color, LGBTQ women, women with disabilities, and houseless women were more likely to be abused by an intimate partner.

According to Brendan Stabeno, mental health deputy district attorney for Multnomah County, the Portland Police Bureau responded to over 11,000 domestic violence calls last year.

Stabeno is part of the District Attorney’s Domestic Violence Unit, which consists of six deputy district attorneys and two certified law students who handle all of the domestic violence cases in Multnomah County. These cases range from restraining order violations and stalking order violations all the way up to serious assaults and aggravated murder. Speaking at the event, he highlighted the scope of consequences for victims beyond more visible physical trauma.

“People don’t really think about the kind of other, not even collateral consequences, but the economic abuse which still constitutes domestic violence,” Stabeno said.

Stabeno described how people who are trying to exercise power and control in a relationship might take over the finances of a victim, ruining their credit or rental histories, incurring debt, and restricting a victim’s access to their own money.

“It prevents the victims from being as financially independent going forward, but it also means they’re going to be more dependent on the perpetrator or batterer, which furthers the cycle [of violence].”

According to estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total lifetime cost for a victim of rape alone is over $120,000, making it a $3.1 trillion problem nationwide.

The Oregon Department of Human Services estimates that domestic violence costs the state over $50 million annually, including direct medical costs and mental health services, as well as the lost productivity from paid work for survivors.

The State of Oregon has recorded 28 domestic violence fatalities in 2017 thus far, according to Stabeno. 2013 numbers show that 20 percent of all homicides in Oregon are related to intimate partner violence.

Despite these numbers, it’s hard to put a price tag on the emotional and psychological tolls for those who experience interpersonal violence.

“We have 70 girls in our sorority,” Klauer said. “I have personally dealt with at least four women who came and talked to me about their partner abusing them in the last year.”

Klauer explained that even among a tight-knit group like a sorority, people who have experienced interpersonal violence are often reluctant to come forward, making bystander intervention vital to address the problem.

“The most important thing is for friends to recognize the signs of domestic violence,” Klauer said. “Be able to identify friends who are in abusive relationships, and know how to help them out.”

Several Alpha Chi members who joined the sorority at the same time spoke with Portland State Vanguard about being involved in advocacy efforts for the first time.

Riley, a speech and hearing sciences major at PSU, was part of a group that took part in an event the prior weekend during which members learned signs of abusive relationships and ways of communicating with others who have experienced abuse. “It was really good for me to know,” she said. “I personally have never gone through something like that, but I have a friend who was in a really bad relationship.”

“I think it’s a great experience to be part of because I feel like this is a relatable problem for a lot of college students all around America,” said Sophie Balthazar, a PSU student majoring in health science. “It’s not really something that’s talked about as much as it should be.”

If you or anyone you know has experienced interpersonal violence, resources both on and off-campus are listed below:

National Domestic Violence Hotline:

City of Portland Gateway Center
10305 East Burnside Street
Portland, Oregon 97216
(503) 988-6400
Walk-in Hours: M–F 9 a.m.–4 p.m.

Women’s Resource Center Interpersonal Violence Program
Drop in hours: M–W, 9a.m.–12p.m.
Schedule an appointment:
-Online at
-In-person during business hours at 1802 SW 10th Ave, in the Montgomery Hall Basement
-Over the phone by calling 503-725-5672
Interpersonal Violence Advocates
Women’s Resource Center: 503-725-5672
Queer Resource Center: 503-725-9742

After hours:
A Call to Safety (f.k.a. Portland Women’s Crisis Line):