Sexual harassment is THE topic of conversation ever since major Hollywood player Harvey Weinstein's "casting couch" moves were revealed by the New York Times in early October.
Almost daily since, allegations have been leveled against high-profile men, including actors Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck and Jeremy Piven; director Brett Ratner; NPR's Michael Oreskes and New Orleans chef John Besh, just to name a few.
"Your first reaction is to not believe the victim because the accused is so beloved by their fans," said Rachael Hebert, CEO of STAR (Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response). "This is the first time people have so publicly gotten support and attention, and with that comes an increase in the number of calls we receive."
To help STAR carry out its mission "to support survivors of sexual trauma, improve systems' response and create social change to end sexual violence," some men slipped into their glittery pumps and took the stage at The Varsity for STAR's fifth annual Hunks in Heels "Standing Tall for Social Change" fundraiser.
"Hunks in Heels brings STAR into the spotlight," Hebert said. "It's a fun event and having people like our hunks stand up for our cause means a lot. They've become good ambassadors for us."
And the men had their reasons why they were willing to wobble on stilettos as family and friends cheered them on.
"Violence in any form is unacceptable and a violation against humanity," said Joe "Rhinestone Cowboy" Possa, who raised more than $13,000 for STAR, earning him the title of Hottest Hunk. Possa, whose boots were bedazzled by artist Alex Harve, added that sexual violence and trauma "are especially egregious and inflict an assault on the victim lasting long after the traumatic event ends. Survivors need to know they are never alone."
Jeremy Theriot took a hard line.
"Macho-ism be damned," said Theriot, who channeled a "Purple Rain"-era Prince. "Social change isn't about vanity, it's about being that loud voice for those often silenced by fear."
Theriot rocked the stage in shoes designed by Sara Smith to win awards for Red Carpet Ready and Best Shoe in Show.
"Anyone with a voice has a duty to speak for those who remain silent or stand up to those intent on silencing others," said Chris Suba, who's James Bond-gadget covered pumps were designed by Kristi Kernan. This 007 got Best Dancer/Choreography and Oscar Worthy Performance honors.
For Brandon Barker, who did a spot-on take of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, it's about family.
"I want my daughter to grow up in a better world, free from fear," said Barker, who earned Best Persona/Best Actor honors in his heels designed by Stephanie Landry.
Orthopedist Vincent Shaw agreed to take the stage because "there are so many voices that go unheard." He morphed from an old woman on crutches into "Dr. Hunk" and got the prize for Best Smile/Hollywood Ham. His boots were designed by Meg Guidroz.
Josh Howard, in psychedelic boots created by Aimée Summers, gave his reason: "I'm standing tall for social change because if I'm not, I'm standing in the way of it. There is no neutral."
He won the Best Original Talent award.
Also taking part in the event were Carlos Thomas, who was proclaimed Crowd Pleaser, in heels designed by Rodneyna Hart; Bill Gussman, named Cutie Patootie, in Leonard Augustus-designed pumps, and Kenny Nguyen, whose Lily Batencourt-designed heels won him the Funniest award.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, trauma or harassment, call STAR's 24-hour helpline at (855) 435-STAR.