A little over a year ago, Sarah Browder Harris was killed by her husband, who then took his own life.
On Saturday, Sandy Browder, her father, carried a banner bearing her nickname, “Sassy,” as he took part in Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a fundraiser and public awareness campaign for domestic violence.
Team Sassy, made up of the Browder family and friends, registered 70 walkers and raised $10,000 for Family Services, which hosts the annual walk, where men slip on high heels and other kinds of women’s shoes for a roughly mile-long trek.
Browder said Team Sassy also participated in the walk last year, just weeks after his daughter’s death. in 2012, the team raised $8,000 in her memory.
“It shows people do care in today’s world where people are kind of jaded, we’re surrounded by love,” Browder said of the support the family has received. “Sarah’s favorite saying (was) ‘Live, laugh and love,’ so we try to keep that mantra.”
Family Services reports that cases like Sarah’s are far too common. She had been married for just a year; her husband, Marine Kirk Walter Harris, shot and killed her in front of his father’s Bermuda Run home after she decided to leave him. She was 29.
Sandy Browder calls his daughter’s situation a case of “classic domestic violence,” but the family didn’t know the tell-tale signs of domestic violence. He said Harris displayed signs of an abuser, including his constant desire to know his wife’s whereabouts. Sandy Browder now urges others to learn the signs.
“It’s really mostly about control,” he said. “If you know the signs of somebody trying to control somebody, you may be aware of how they can be helped.”
Michelle Speas, Family Services’ chief development officer, said there are a multitude of services available to those escaping domestic violence through Safe on Seventh – located on the seventh floor of the Forsyth County Courthouse. There, women can attain protective orders and receive a police escort to the shelter that Family Services operates.
The shelter – one of several domestic violence programs and services offered by Family Services – houses local women for up to 60 days, offering them counseling, financial training and a safe plan for the future during their stay.
The shelter can house 30 women and their children. Though domestic violence numbers are down overall in Forsyth County, Speas said the shelter is always at capacity, partly because more and more black women are being affected by domestic violence.
“Domestic violence is in every neighborhood,” she said. “It touches every socio-economic class.”
The male “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” participants aimed to drive home the message that abuse is never acceptable. The homemade signs they carried as they walked through the streets of downtown to Corpening Plaza expressed as much.
Like the Browder family, East Ward City Council member Derwin Montgomery has been personally affected by domestic violence. The South Carolina native said his cousin was killed in a 2009 act of domestic violence.
He’s become involved in the cause, donning uncomfortable women’s footwear for “Walk a Mile” every year and volunteering for Family Services’ Safe Relationships RAP (Raising Awareness Prevention) program by talking to young people about domestic violence and sexual assault.
“It’s an issue we all have to pay attention to, and it’s one we actually have an opportunity to help with,” he said.
Abuse has also touched walk participant Ernest Squire Jr. As a child growing up in Cleveland Avenue Homes, he recalls his mother being abused by his father. Today, he and his wife, Patsy, do their part to break the cycle of abuse by serving as therapeutic foster parents to children who are often taken from abusive homes. They care for the children – sometimes for years – until they can be reunited with their parents or adopted.
Patsy Squire, a Family Services board member, supported her husband as he made his first “Walk a Mile” trek. He said walking in women’s shoes was painful, but well worth it.
“It gives me a positive attitude,” Squire said. “I’m impressed with the amount of people who came out.”
There were more than 450 registered walkers. They raised about $30,000 for Family Services. Many teams represented local organizations, including the Winston-Salem Jaycees, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Novant Health and Wake Forest University Baseball.
Those who need help in a domestic violence situation may contact Family Services at 336-722-8173.
See more photos from the symbolic walk on our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.648911558474383.1073741837.355902327775309&type=1