Open letter from the president of “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” 2021, community leader, Elizabeth O’Hara


I am a former journalist / TV presenter who has covered many stories of domestic violence. But there is one that sticks to my skin.

Jennifer was in her thirties and her mother was a friend of the family. I never met Jennifer. One day I got a call. Jennifer had been murdered and her mother wanted me to help the police solve the crime. Let’s be clear, journalists don’t solve crimes. We tell stories. And I assured Jennifer’s mom that I would do my best to tell hers.

Jennifer’s mother let me into the house where the crime took place. Traces of black dust where the fingerprints had been taken were on the walls and counters. Furniture has been overturned. The trash still contained food, the dishes were still in the sink. And there was blood – a lot of dried blood. It was on the carpet, splashed on the ceiling, and trickled into other parts of the house. I always remembered the perfect bloody handprint left on a white living room wall. It looked like a Halloween decoration left long after the season.

October is the month of domestic violence. The YWCA Paso del Norte will host its annual Walk A Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser for the Sarah McKnight Transitional Living Center on Friday October 22 at San Jacinto Plaza. The march was first launched by a Californian volunteer at a crisis center. He wanted men to talk about relationship violence; literally put yourself in a woman’s shoes to understand her stories and her survivalism. El Paso businesses are encouraged to register teams, use competitive peer-to-peer fundraisers, and “walk the walk” of thousands of women wearing vivid 3-inch-high red heels. This year, the YWCA will also be hosting a post-event rally with musical entertainment provided by the local band, Fungi Mungle. The ‘Paint the Town Red’ event will feature a 2-hour show, food trucks and lighting from downtown El Paso skyscrapers as well as the beloved Star on the Crimson Red Mountain .

It all sounds like a lot of fun and it will be! But the accent is pretty serious. Before the pandemic, 310 known rapes were reported in El Paso County. Data is not yet available for 2020, but what we do know is that when the pandemic hit women and children already in dire straits found they couldn’t leave their abuser. Economic tensions, job loss, home schooling and health problems have piled up; local authorities have reported an increase in outbreaks of violence. After the pandemic, many funders were hit hard as people withdrew their usual corporate and personal donations. As a result, shelters like the Transitional Living Center or TLC are now in deficit, aiming to meet the same demand for quality care for survivors with less money.

Your support for “Walk A Mile” has a huge impact on local families. For example, a survivor seeking to enter the workforce may need help with childcare costs. The TLC will cover this. A woman may be enrolled in courses but need funding for books. Yes, TLC covers that as well and helps house women and children who need a place to stay while they rebuild their future.

Jennifer never left her abusive relationship. Her partner stabbed her several times, and he was later arrested and sentenced. This conviction, however, is not a celebration. Jennifer’s mother is childless and heartbroken 17 years later.

As chairman of this year’s “Walk A Mile”, I humbly ask you to step into, not Jennifer’s shoes, but her mother’s. She is a woman who would have given anything to help her daughter and others like her. She didn’t have the chance. But you do.

Elizabeth O’Hara, President

More information and to register, go to:

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