The bulky, muscular guy was hobbling – hobbling – into the pavilion at Headwaters West Saturday, the red high-heels duct-taped to his feet and the spike heels sporting halos of mud four inches up.
He may be able to bench press twice his own weight, but walking a mile in high heels had almost literally brought him to his knees.
"It actually feels better to run than walk," he explained as he performed a strange strut that somehow involved moving his legs without flexing his screaming ankles or calves.
Of course, he and the other 300 participants in the Women's Bureau's sixth annual Walk A Mile in Her Shoes event – which raises money for the bureau's REACT rape awareness program – understand that the torture of walking a mile in high heels is nothing compared to what a victim of sexual assault experiences.
"One in five women in Indiana have been a victim of sexual abuse and one in 12 men in Indiana have been," said the Women's Bureau's Lydia Priest-Ferraro. Priest-Ferraro is the group's disability outreach educator. Disabled persons are three times more likely to be victims of sexual assault, she said.
As she stood among T-shirts decorated with slogans like "Real men beat eggs," Priest-Ferraro explained that the money raised by the event allows the bureau to offer all its services free, including counseling for victims and their loved ones, a 24/7 rape crisis hotline and community outreach. The Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event has raised over $500,000 over the years.
"Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes in the country," she said. "People need to understand that if it happened to you, it's not your fault."
For participant L.J. Grayson, walking a mile in her spike heels may have helped a great cause, but it did not clear up the mystery of women's high-heeled shoes at all.
"I don't know why they wear them," he said.
Firefighter John O'Connor participated for the second year in a row, and not because he looks so good in fire-engine red heels.
"It's supporting a good cause," O'Connor said. "It was me and a couple other guys; hopefully we'll turn it into something we do every year, and we'll get more guys next year."
O'Connor said it astounds him that the statistics on sexual assault could be true.
"I couldn't imagine it. It's a crazy world," he said. "This is a big problem, and if it takes something goofy like this …otherwise, nobody's paying attention to it."