Horror always travels with annual Janesville fun walk
JANESVILLE—Eric Anderson put on a pair of red high heels Friday in hopes that domestic violence can be ended.
YWCA Rock County's annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event is always a strange blend of the chuckles, frolicking and the horror of what people do to each other.
Anderson, one of more than 200 men in the annual event, knows the horror. It came to him as a 7-year-old Janesville boy.
He and his sister, 6, were awakened by their mother screaming for help. They called 911. It was May 1995
No one told them what had happened until the next day when they woke up at their grandparents' house. Their mother, Susan Anderson, was dead. Their father in jail.
Anderson remembers staying upstairs when police came. He and his sister were later led out of the house, and he got a glimpse of the room where, according to authorities, his mother had been brutally stomped and beaten to death.
He had a pretty good idea of what happened, he said as he recalled the event Friday, sitting in at the Pontiac Convention Center, wearing his heels.
“Ever since that night, it haunts me. It haunts my sister,” he said.
“This should never happen to anybody—ever. There's no reason it should happen to anybody,” said Anderson, now 25 and a software developer for Quad/Graphics,
This was the first year that Anderson had heard of the march in Janesville. His grandparents had moved from Janesville when he was still young, but his aunt, Sharon Bucklin of Milton, who was the after-the-walk speaker Friday, told him about the event.
Anderson joined the throng that walked in a loop in the Pontiac Drive/Highway 14 commercial area. People laughed and joked. Some wore feather boas.
Not that everyone didn't have a good idea of why they were parading in public in women's shoes.
Even the girls who were helping McKenna Bladl of Milton celebrate her 11th birthday knew.
The seven girls were part of the Zonta Club contingent, which, like dozens of other women, marched in support of the men.
“No violence! To Girls!” the girls chanted.
“It's one of my pet peeves—guys that abuse women and kids,” said John Ludwig, who for the third year was heading a team of walkers called Team Luds. The team had collected $10,000 from sponsors and others.
One Team Luds member was Mollie Myers, 9, of Milton. She had raised $1,886 in her second year with Walk a Mile.
It's all for the victims of domestic violence, Mollie said. “It's helping them get in a good, caring place.”
The money goes to YWCA Rock County's Alternatives to Violence program, which includes the agency's 33-bed domestic violence shelter, and YWCA Rock County's Transitions for Women program, which helps single mothers with a history of domestic violence find sustainable employment and affordable housing for their families.
Anderson said he hopes the event raises awareness. He hopes that telling his story will keep it from happening again.
“You just do not want it to happen to you or anybody in your family, because it affects everybody,” he said.
But the violence continues in homes across the city. Police Chief Dave Moore, who attended the event with his department's domestic violence team, said his officers deal with domestic violence every day.
The YWCA reported its domestic violence shelter was near capacity this week. Last year, 139 women and 143 children found refuge in the shelter, while staff and volunteers fielded 339 calls on the 24-hour crisis HELPline.
At the end of the march, heels come off—if they hadn't already, and congratulations passed all around.
“It's tougher than I thought,” Anderson said. “But I'm happy I did it.”