The most shared article on our Facebook page in recent days was the CNN report, written by David Williams, with the headline, “Startling number of women say they have been harassed while running.” The article references a 2016 reader survey in Runner’s World which asked:
“How often, if ever, does a stranger whistle at you, comment on your body, needlessly honk at you, or give you other similar unsolicited sexual attention?”
43% of the women who responded said they sometimes, often, or always experience such behavior. Only 4% of men did. Now, the article is meant to be helpful. It offers advice (keep running; change your route; ignore) and ends with:
if you need support or advice on how to deal with harassment, call the toll-free National Street Harassment Hotline at 1-855-897-5910.
When I shared the post on my timeline, I added “Surprise!” Seriously, women who run were the least likely to find the numbers “startling.” Indeed, if anything, it’s startling that only 43% said they’d experienced harassment while running.
Here are some of the comments about the post from our readers (thank you everyone for your comments):
“Yep. Any women actually ‘startled’ by this?”
“I used to run in a cemetery. It felt safer. I’ve been harassed many, many times.”
“I run on an indoor track. Can’t feel safe outside.”
“ I’d be more surprised with a headline saying: we found most women aren’t harassed while going on about their daily lives.”
“I actually feel like I don’t know any female runners who have not been harassed.”
“I see I’m not the only woman deriding the use of the word “startling.” Not startling at all. Not even surprising when it happens. Pretty much par for the course. Welcome to being a woman in this world, author of story.“
“Only startling to a man.“
“The only startling thing about this is that CNN finds it startling.“
“Women are harassed everywhere 🙄 #EverydaySexism”
“And walking, and cycling, and taking the goddamned bus.“
“Yeah, I just assumed close to 100% of women runners have been harrassed? This is not news, it’s common knowledge.“
“Every. Single. Run. 🤦🏼♀️“
In short: not startling. Not limited to running. The harassment women experience while running, while going about their daily business, spans the gamut from unwelcome sexual attention to body shaming and body policing. No one among those who commented on the post found it at all surprising that a large percentage of women runners were routinely harassed.
It becomes something we learn to live with, to ignore. Mostly that’s the way to minimize unpleasant interactions — just keep on running. Mostly it doesn’t turn violent. But that’s not always the case. Last month in Iowa, Mollie Tibbetts went out for an evening run and didn’t make it back home alive. Her suspected murderer, “Cristhian Bahena Rivera, followed her in his car as she ran along a country road before assaulting her.”
Yes, murder is a shocking outcome.
But obviously it’s also incredibly depressing that harassment is something we have come to find not at all surprising.
Are you surprised? If you’ve experienced this, how do you handle it?