A new Runner’s World survey seems to confirm what most women who run – or just most women – already knew: female runners are gambling with constant, widespread and sometimes frightening harassment from men when they hit a trail. The survey is part of a larger special report, “Running While Female,” which included anecdotes from scores of young female runners sharing their personal experiences with harassment. The findings of the report were grim.
More than 2,500 women were surveyed, and more than half of those under 30 said they’ve experiences harassment while running. A full 94% those women said their harassers were men. Female joggers reported that they’d been propositioned, followed or intimidated into changing their routes, and frightened of being assaulted. Sixty percent also said potential threats discouraged them from running at night, which feeds into the longstanding narrative that only men get to be out after dark, and that in order to not be harassed or assaulted, women should just go inside when the sun sets.
The survey also highlighted the micro-aggressions women experience – the encounters that, while not always a direct threat to their safety, chip away at their agency in the world and ability to simply exist with the same level of privilege that men do. Women reported feeling resigned to wearing more clothing than is comfortable or conducive to their training in order to cut down on the degree of harassment that comes from stepping outside.
“I try not to let it get to me, but it does,” Chelsea Cloud, 32, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, told Runner’s World. “Harassers are taking away my freedom and right to run outside in peace … I’ve been harassed in the dead of winter, completely bundled up with a mask covering most of my face.”
This past summer, three young female runners were murdered in separate states, in unrelated attacks. The incidents shook women because of their quick and brutal succession, but the notion of such a brutal reality was nothing new.