Neil wears killer heels to tackle domestic violence

NEIL WHETTAM has seen his share of women under the heel in his two decades' work as a social worker.

SHOE GOES ON: Assistant Sarah Edgar eases Neil Whettam into the ways of women's footwear. Picture: IAN RUTHERFORD

So to raise awareness of their plight he's decided to put his best foot forward and hobble a mile in stilettos. The 42-year-old will squeeze his size nines into killer heels and set off on his challenge on December 10.

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And Neil, who has previously worked for the UN on social work projects across the globe, has managed to persuade his colleagues at East Lothian Council, including the head of education Don Ledingham, to join him to raise awareness for the White Ribbon Campaign, which aims to enlist men in trying to end violence against women.

Neil, who trains social workers and lives in Leith, said: "One of my colleagues said there was a previous local authority that did something similar and we thought we should do whatever we can to promote the White Ribbon Campaign.

"Although it's a fun thing to do we're highlighting a serious issue. People don't realise how many hoops there are for sufferers of domestic abuse.

"We want to make it easier for people to come forward and we also want to secure the support of men.

"If a guy says 'I could have just slapped her' we need people to say that is not acceptable.

"Incidents of domestic violence on women in the county are on the rise at the moment, so there is no better time for men to find ways of showing that they want to end violence against women now."

Neil is still looking for volunteers for the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event around Neilson Park in Haddington and the adjoining rugby pitch to demonstrate their support for the campaign.

However, far from worries over buckled ankles, Neil is concerned that with increasing numbers the team won't have enough pairs of high heels - and in large enough sizes for men.

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He said: "There has already been a lot of interest from men who want to Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.

"One of our worries now is that we won't have enough women's shoes in suitable sizes. I hope people out there can help us get this event off the ground. We've never walked in women's shoes before and we won't have any practice, but there will be our female colleagues supporting us along the way, probably literally."

Mr Ledingham, East Lothian's executive director of education and children's services, is among those taking to the Haddington park in heels next month.

He said: "This event is highlighting a serious message in a fun and memorable way. Violence against women is never acceptable and Neil's innovative event inviting men to take a walk in women's shoes captures the imagination!"

Any volunteers wishing to take part or who have shoes to donate should e-mail Neil at [email protected] with their name and shoe size.