On Saturday, March 30th, 2019, St. John Fisher College’s Fisher Feminist Alliance brought back the popular event “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes.” Walk a Mile in Their Shoes features a one-mile walk around the campus discussing statistics and the realities of sexual assault and domestic violence in the USA. In addition, diversity clubs gathered books by diverse authors (including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Angie Thomas) to raffle of to those who attended the event in an effort to continue learning. The event began with an address and anecdote from Feminist Alliance’s President Kat Whitmoyer. Kat opened up the event by telling the audience about an experience she had the previous day helping a young woman get out of an abusive home. The anecdote served as a reminder that sexual assault and domestic violence statistics are not just numbers. The statistics represent real people, living in our neighborhoods, living with their abusers, thinking there is no way out.
The event featured local author and Rochester native Liz Ferro as the guest speaker. Liz held the audience captive with her amazing life story. After circling through abusive homes in the Rochester foster care system, Liz was finally adopted but her trouble would not stop there. She shared with the audience the year of sexual abuse she endured from her neighbor. For me, the truly heartbreaking part of this story was the shame her mother made her feel for being assaulted. She asked a nine-year-old Liz why she did it and why she wrote it down. Most powerfully, she asked if everything Liz had written about it was true. Putting this story into context, it was the seventies, kids did not have access to pornography the way we do today. There was no possible way for Liz to know about these things if they had not happened to her.
While Liz’s story would understandably be too much for some people to handle, she did not let what happened to her define her. Liz took all of her pent up anxiety, fear, and frustration and put that energy into running. Liz has run numerous marathons, ultramarathons, and is now running the non-for- profit organization “Girl’s With Sole.” “Girl’s With Sole” creates free workout classes and lessons for girls who have experienced sexual assault and domestic violence. The organization provides the girls with sneakers and any other equipment they may need to reproduce the workouts she creates for them. For Liz, it is extremely important to maintain physical activity to remain sane and she is giving that message to girls across the country.
If you are interested in Liz’s work, check out your local Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy of her books or check her out online at girlswithsole.org
Never forget that with the right supports and motivation, you can do anything you set your mind to despite your circumstances