The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre is gearing up for its fifth annual fundraising event, A Walk in Her Shoes, which takes place on March 5 in Camana Bay. The popular event, which is fittingly scheduled for International Women’s Day, will see male participants strut their stuff (or hobble along) in high heels in support of the Crisis Centre.
Established in 2003 as Grand Cayman’s first safe shelter for female victims of domestic violence and their children, the nonprofit organisation also provides a 24-hour crisis helpline for women in distress, aftercare support for former shelter clients, and counselling for shelter clients and other members of the public. It also runs Estella’s Place, a walk-in centre open to all victims of abuse.
Two volunteers who are passionate about furthering the Crisis Centre’s goal of breaking the cycle of domestic abuse are Michelle Lockwood, director, fundraising chair and event organiser, and Brooke Moore, a board director and chair of the marketing committee.
A Helping Hand
Michelle Lockwood first got involved with the Crisis Centre in 2015 because she wanted to support the vulnerable people who come to the shelter.
“They are afraid to speak out or of the consequences. Cayman is a very small community and the repercussions can be felt very quickly; so I wanted to ensure that our clients have the best possible experience, and, in particular, an empowering one,” she says. Lockwood had a previous experience of unwanted attention and felt powerless both in the moment as well as during the aftermath, as she didn’t want to report the incident to the police.
“Having the shelter means that you are supported throughout every part of this journey, whether you’re ready to leave, have a question or figure out new solutions that you may not have considered. The team is there throughout every moment to support you,” says Lockwood, adding that domestic abuse can take the form of physical, emotional and even financial abuse.
“Since I’ve been involved in this cause, I have had many people speak to me about abuses that they feel within their families, whether it be a husband-and-wife relationship or parent-and-child relationship; and the abuse can go either way. I always encourage them to speak to one of our counsellors, either by calling the shelter or by visiting Estella’s Place. Our services are much more than just a shelter, and the work of the team can be the start to rebuilding lives,” she says.
The first time Brooke Moore was introduced to the Crisis Centre was in 2012 at an art exhibition fundraiser, where a shelter client told a story of how the Crisis Centre had helped her escape the cycle of abuse.
“I was brought to tears hearing this victim speak about what she had been through, and that story has always stayed with me. I also have a family member who has been a victim of domestic violence. Although she is the direct victim, her children are [victims] as well. Hearing the stories of hiding in the closet to keep safe and having to witness this is absolutely heartbreaking, as children do not forget this and it can have long-lasting effects,” she says.
A Walk in Her Shoes
The event encourages participating men to collect donations from friends, family and colleagues in support of them donning a pair of high heels in front of crowds of people.
“This year we will be doing ‘heats,’ so the more money the participant raises means they’ll have a later start time and, therefore, fewer laps to walk,” says Lockwood.
Many of the participants “go all out” for the event and come wearing dresses, panty hose and makeup. “It is very entertaining to see them transform and really fully dedicate to showing support for our shelter,” says Moore.
“There will inevitably be a stumble, but they are all there together — sometimes heavily leaning on each other — but most importantly with a smile… It is so amazing to see men understand, even for a moment, what women go through.”
This year’s fundraising goal is to exceed CI$50,000, which will go towards ongoing operating costs at the shelter, with another goal of creating a purpose-built shelter within the next five years. With every event, the Crisis Centre is closer to achieving this goal.
“Domestic violence is a very serious issue, and this is one way in which we have been able to have fun for this cause. Men also need to play a part in lifting up all women, and, hopefully, with this short experience walking in heels, they will make a small step,” expands Lockwood.
Moore adds: “Events such as A Walk in Her Shoes helps raise awareness of what the Crisis Centre does and helps break down that stigma. A lot of people suffer in silence, and as long as we are getting the message out, we hope that people listen, as domestic violence can affect anyone… Our mission is to end the cycle of domestic violence and close our doors forever so that our services are no longer needed.”
Author: Lisa Boushy