Men don high heels for sexual assault awareness event in St. George

ST. GEORGE — Sexual assault can be a dark, difficult subject to talk about, but it was mostly laughs and smiles during an awareness event Saturday morning, as men chose to trade in their sneakers and flip-flops for a pair of high heels.

Men pick out high heels to wear during the first “Heels 2 Heal” walk in St. George, Utah, April 27, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

For the first time in St. George, Kommittment Against Violence Altogether, also known as KAVA Talks — a Tongan/Pacific Islander male domestic violence advocacy group — held a “Heels 2 Heal” walk at Vernon Worthen Park. The walk, which is held annually in Salt Lake City, aims to raise awareness of sexual assault in a more lighthearted way.

More importantly, the walk is a way to get men involved in the conversation surrounding sexual assault, said Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou, executive director of KAVA Talks.

“I think if women could have solved this problem, we would have solved it years ago,” she said. “But we need the men involved.”

While KAVA Talks also completes these walks to raise awareness of domestic violence, members of the St. George Chapter for Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources, or PIK2AR, decided a walk was needed in St. George every April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

One of those members is Nale Fakahua, also co-chair for the KAVA Talks St. George Chapter. As a participant in the event, he said walking in heels was painful, but the experience was empowering.

It allowed me to recognize what women may go through,” Fakahua told St. George News, “thinking about the abuse, sexual assault and then the shoes.”

Although only six men participated in the walk, they received quite the attention from people walking or doing other activities in the park. Some people gawked, while others cheered in support. Some even stopped the men to ask them why they were in heels or to ask for a picture.

Fakahua said sexual assault is a huge issue in St. George that nobody wants to talk about it. From a man’s perspective, he said men need to learn how to manage their emotions because “that’s what causes a lot of abuse.”

Members of the Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources participate in the “Heels 2 Heel” walk in St. George, Utah, April 27, 2019 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

“Men need to understand that a lot of times, when they use anger to manage their emotions, it’s based on fear,” he said, adding that men are often afraid of seeming weak, being judged or feeling inadequate.

It’s Malohifo’ou’s hope that more men will participate in next year’s walk.

“It would be great if this whole park was full of resources and people,” she said, “because we definitely need to raise the awareness of sexual assault and the effects of sexual assault.”

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Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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