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Men reach for the Band-Aids after walking along Hertel in heels

One day a year, men who care about the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence put on high-heeled shoes and strut proudly along Hertel Avenue to raise money for Crisis Services.

Well, for almost all the men who came out Sunday, “strut” would be an exaggeration. “Stagger” or “struggle” would be closer to the truth.

Robyn Wiktorski-Reynolds, director of Crisis Services’ advocate program, said about 325 walkers signed up for the 11th annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event. Nearly $10,000 was raised online in advance, not counting the cash contributed on Sunday.

Larry Dispenza of Amherst wouldn’t have completed the walk without an emergency bandage stop.

“I’ve worn the skin off my pinkie toes. The balls of my feet are starting to blister up,” said Dispenza, who was helped out by Holly Franz, a sexual assault nurse examiner at Crisis Services. She rode the route on a motor scooter, offering Band-Aids to those in need.

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Related content: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

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She and her team go to hospitals when rape victims check in. They help to collect evidence and assist with medical care. It’s one of the main activities of Crisis Services, located at 2969 Main St. Its round-the-clock victim hotline is 834-3131.

“Sexual assault and sexual violence are among the most under-reported crimes in the United States,” acting Erie County District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. said as he limped along the street near the end of the procession. “Anything we can do to draw attention to that and let victims know that there are professionals dedicated to helping them, it’s a good thing. That’s why I’m here, to support our partners at Crisis Services.”

Flaherty’s red pumps might have looked more stylish on someone else in the legal community, such as Gabrielle Walter.

She’s a first-year University at Buffalo Law School student who holds the title of Miss Bluebird, a regional beauty pageant crown that could lead her to the Miss New York crown in late May, and then on to the Miss America pageant. Thus, heels are just part of the deal for Walter, whose platform, no pun intended, is speaking up about campus sexual assaults.

She said a wedge with straps was a better choice for rookies, but Walter had no trouble walking the 12-block route in her crown, her sash and 4-inch peep-toe shoes.

Officer Christopher Fisher of the UB Campus Police won the award for best shoes: a pair of heels with the police agency’s logo attached to the tongues of the shoes. He walked the whole route with State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo.

Kennedy said Crisis Services “acts as an oasis of support and resources to help individuals, put them in touch with health care and law enforcement, to provide them with that level of support and that hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Some of the men in the walk needed that encouragement, too.

Darryl Shannon, who played for the Buffalo Sabres from 1996 to 1999 and now lives in Amherst, represented the Sabres Alumni with relatively conservative black 2-inch pumps.

“It’s a challenge just standing here. My calves are already seizing up,” Shannon said before the walk.

Alexander Flaitz of Geneseo, a UB student who shared the crown in the pre-walk Catwalk Contest, was wearing a 5-inch pair of white platform shoes, clearly 1970s disco attire. “I think that anybody who came out to show their support is obviously a brave human being, because heel injuries are serious things.”

“I am struggling a lot. This is very painful. I don’t know how women do this on a daily basis,” said Aditya Sidharth, a UB biotechnology major from India. He needed two other participants to help him to the finish line in his 3½-inch pumps.

“But this is all for a good cause,” Sidharth said. “Domestic violence and sexual assault are a huge issue on college campuses, and also in my country, where rape is a big issue and it’s something that people are trying to fight. My legs hurt, I’m going to be blistering, I won’t be able to walk back home, but I know it’s all for a good cause and we need to help out.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com