Story and Photos By Charlotte Fife-Jepperson
It was quite a sight to see – a procession of men cautiously walking around Jordan Park in high heels. Some wobbled and a couple rolled their ankles, others walked alongside women (called “blister sisters”) who were there in case the men needed to grab their arm for support.
The gender roles were intentionally reversed at this domestic violence awareness event last October.
Organized by the Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR) non-profit, their annual event called “In Heels to Heal” raised awareness about the problem of domestic and sexual violence against women.
“We are trying to understand how it feels to walk in their shoes,” said Simi Poteki, director of KAVA Talks, a program within PIK2AR that educates Pacific Islander men about domestic violence and sexual abuse issues.
KAVA Talks (Kommitment Against Violence Altogether) is a men’s group that meets monthly to discuss violence prevention within the Pacific Islander community. (In case you were wondering, this has nothing to do with kava drinking, but they do use the Kava circle platform for open discussion.)
A Women’s Empowerment Group, which meets weekly in Glendale, was recently added to the programing to provide a safe environment for Pacific Islander women to share their unique perspectives and experiences concerning their wellbeing. Women are invited to come for “REST,” which stands for Resources, Education, Support & Talanoa (Talk).
Poteki and his wife Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou started up the KAVA Talks and women’s groups to address the domestic violence that is prevalent not only in their community, but the community at large. No cultural group is immune.
“In the islands, we tolerate violence so much that we think it is part of our culture. It is not. Abuse does not belong in any culture, especially ours,” said Poteki.
“When little kids grow up and see their dad hit their momma, they just turn their heads the other way, because it’s beyond their control. They are not supposed to say anything. Well, it’s time for some of us to stand up and say something,” he said.
PIK2AR also organizes film screenings and panel discussions as part of their domestic violence prevention efforts.
To find out more about PIK2AR and KAVA Talks, visit www.pik2ar.info, contact Executive Director Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou at , or attend one of the following meetings:
KAVA Talks: Meet other men who work towards eliminating violence on the 2nd Thursday of each month at Jordan Valley Medical Center West Valley Campus, 3460 S. Pioneer Pkwy, West Valley City.
Pacific Island Women’s Empowerment Group: a peer support group that meets every Wednesday at the Sorenson Unity Center, 1383 S 900 W. from 6 – 7:30 p.m. Free child care available.