Strength and Solidarity at Walk a Mile

Guest blogger Leia Cain, co-director of The Vagina Monologues at USC and Ph.D. student in Social Foundations of Education at the University of South Carolina, experienced Walk a Mile in Her Shoes for the first time this year, finding strength and solidarity all around her.

Last Thursday marked the first time I participated in something like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, even though similar awareness-raising events were held in every city I’ve lived in since college. Perhaps I’ve skipped attending because, until recently, I was not very outspoken as a survivor. It’s the way I was raised – you just don’t air your dirty laundry.

This year I co-directed an incredibly talented group of women in USC’s annual production of The Vagina Monologues. Watching them grow into their roles inspired me. I learned about the disparate paths each woman took to get to the stage. Through weeks of auditions and rehearsals and three nights of performances, we laughed and cried together, we shared stories of being survivors, and my life was changed. I witnessed their bravery and their strength. They gave me strength. I became strong.

Wearing the teal ribbon at Walk a Mile on April 18 was my first public outing as a survivor. I was surrounded by my sisters. I was surrounded by community members and community leaders. We walked. We were strong. I was strong.

The people cheering us on along the route further fueled my strength. Several times I wanted to cry because I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I was not alone. This outpouring of community support, on a beautiful spring day in downtown Columbia, S.C., was the most compassionate thing I have ever experienced.

Thank you, STSM staff and volunteers. Thank you, City of Columbia. Thank you for supporting me and my fellow survivors. Keep up the great work. Together we can continue to spread awareness. Together we can break the silence and end the violence.