What if you had to leave your house in the middle of the night, no job, no car, no family or friends? What would you do?

Capt. Chris Cooke with the Dalton Police Department said that is how he explains domestic violence situations to people who wonder why women don't leave.

"A lot of time they would rather stay with an abuser than to risk harming their kids," he said. "We have a lot of work to do and it's unfortunate."

Cooke spoke at the eighth annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event on Wednesday at Dalton State College. The event was sponsored by the Northwest Georgia Family Crisis Center. About 35 men and women walked a mile around the college to help raise awareness of the devastating impacts of domestic violence. The center provides shelter, advocacy and support for victims of domestic violence in Whitfield, Murray and Gordon counties, its website states.

With October designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the center is sponsoring events throughout the community.

"This is the first event and it's to bring awareness to the cause of domestic violence," said Katora Printup, executive director of the center. "We have lots of Dalton State College students stepping out to help end domestic violence."

Printup said domestic violence is "very prevalent in our community."

"In the last couple of months we’ve reached the capacity of 36 at the center," she said.

Martin Self, a junior at Dalton State College, said domestic violence is a "huge problem" that sometimes gets forgotten.

"There is not enough light shed on it," said Self, who walked in black heels. "It's a problem from the lower class all the way to the top."

Self said anyone who is aware of someone being abused and doesn't help is "just as guilty."

"We have to be a voice for those who can't speak," he said.

Natalie Johnson, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Dalton State and board president of the Northwest Georgia Family Crisis Center, said each year she asks students to participate in the walk.

"Some students are not familiar with it so I educate them," she said. "It's a fun, unique way to get attention for a very serious problem."

Johnson said she's "very passionate" about teaching about domestic violence.

"I'm also passionate about serving as president of the board of directors," she said. "Even though the walk is more of an awareness event, it is one of our fundraisers and every dollar goes back to the crisis center."

Johnson said she appreciates everyone who participates each year. She said getting men to walk in high heels is "amazing."

"They decorate the shoes and have a Best Men Shoe Contest," she said.

Ty Owensby, a junior at Dalton State, bought a pair of heels he calls "abuse kickers" from Providence Ministries. He decorated them with purple ribbon and pink masking tape.

"I just wanted to show my support and help however I could," he said.

Cooke said he encourages people not to judge women in domestic violence situations. He said he once met a woman who was "bewildered" why an abused woman would let someone hit them and not do anything about it.

"I told her, 'You’ve probably never been in her shoes,'" Cooke said.

Northwest Georgia Family Crisis Center Domestic Violence Awareness Month events

• Oct. 18, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 to 2 p.m.: Murray County Outreach will hold a lunch and learn at the Wright Hotel, 201 E. Market St., Chatsworth.

• Oct. 18, 6:30 p.m.: Candlelight vigil at the Whitfield County Courthouse.

• Oct. 25: National Wear Purple Day.

• Oct. 26: Domestic Violence Luncheon from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Rock Bridge Community Church, 121 W. Crawford St., presented by the Conasauga Family Violence Alliance and the Northwest Georgia Family Crisis Center. April W. Ross, Fulton County senior assistant district attorney, is the guest speaker. The cost is $10 (cash or check). RSVP by Oct. 15 at (706) 278-6595 or crisiscenter@optilink.us.

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