Jonathan Gonzalez usually wears baseball cleats or sneakers. Sometimes he wears formal shoes if he has somewhere to go.
But for this occasion, Gonzalez, a senior majoring in marketing, donned a special pair he handpicked from a table of hundreds of shoes— a bright red, patent leather pair of stiletto pumps.
Gonzalez and the rest of his fraternity, Lambda Theta Phi, joined hundreds of USF male-identifying students who participated in the fourth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event–an event designed to raise awareness about relationship violence against women.
“It’s good to know what we’re doing this for,” he said. “It’s a good cause.”
Gonzalez and his fraternity are part of a nationwide trend trying to re-mold the image of fraternities that has been tainted since the 1988 gang rape of a Florida State University freshman found with Greek symbols scribbled on her thighs.
According to a 2009 publication from the National Sexuality Resource Center, between 70 and 90 percent of reported campus gang rapes involve fraternity-affiliated men.
Over the past three years at USF, nine accounts of rape have been recorded through the University Police Department, though results from a 2010 study done by the Department of Justice say that one in every four college women has experienced rape or attempted rape.
Most rape goes unreported though, said Elizabeth Moschella, a sophomore majoring in psychology and a survivor of sexual violence who walked alongside Gonzalez.
Moschella said she never imagined rape on a college campus as something that is possible.
“A lot of people would say this is something that could never happen,” she said. “I thought that too. I didn’t want to believe it could.”
Yet Gonzalez said he knows it could, and wants to make sure that fraternities are fighting it from happening.
“We need to use our privilege as men to raise awareness,” he said.
According to a 2008 study done at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, women are increasingly finding anti-rape and domestic violence allies in fraternities. The study states: “Men challenging sexual violence within their male peer communities may exert a counter-influence, shifting community norms and behaviors.”
Jason Jagosh, a junior majoring in marketing and a member of Zeta Beta Tau, said it is the role of fraternities to ensure that in the name of brotherhood, “sisters” aren’t forgotten.
“We need to be respecting women and raising awareness for relationship equality,” he said. “Abuse happens all around us.”
Jagosh said a few of his female friends have been victims. He hopes by showing that masculine figures do not have to be perpetrators, greater awareness will be spread.
Yet males aren’t just the perpetrators, Moschella said. They too are victims.
Three percent of all males are victims of sexual violence, according to The National Center for Victims of Crime, but this number is greatly underreported.
“This happens to everyone,” Moschella said. “We can make the problem less if we reach out to the men and help reduce that stigma.”
To Gonzalez, whose feet were numb, and who was unsure of whether he had sprained his ankle during his mile long walk, the message of the fraternity’s attendance stuck.
“It’s overwhelming,” he said. “This happens to so many people. It’s up to us to stop it.”