I’m skipping work for a few days to write a few chapters of my street harassment book. Near the hotel where I’m staying (to flee distractions), there is a beautiful trail alongside the Potomac River and before buckling down to write yesterday and today I went for a run on it. Having never run there before though, I ran with my phone and kept alert and I ran in a different direction each day. I quickly found out that the trail was isolated, deserted, and mostly far from any roads, buildings, or even people. The beauty of the scenery was dimmed by my hyper awareness of every unusual sound and nervousness when I passed by a few lone men because of the isolation. No one harassed or attacked me but, as any woman who is out alone in a deserted area knows, there is rarely relief from the fear that one day you’ll be the wrong woman in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This afternoon, after more than six hours of writing and a self-imposed internet ban, I came online to do a bit more research for the chapter I’m writing. When I also checked e-mail, I saw a friend had sent me a relevant link to an article in the Phildalphia Daily News called “Staying safe on the run” about the harassment and risk of assault women runners, including the article author, regularly face. She shares a recent story about being harassed while on a run and then highlights some of the women who have been in the news recently because they were abducted or assualted while running.
Ugh. As a runner, I have had men honk and whistle and make kissing noises at me, some have said sexually explicit comments, and two men followed me on two separate occasions, one by car and another on foot. As precautions against assault, I rarely run with music, I mix up my routes and the time of day I run so I don’t become predictable, I don’t run in the dark, and if I am running somewhere new, I usually run with my phone. Sometimes I wish I was a man because that would make being a runner so much easier.
Aside from my own experiences and those detailed in the Philly article, in the last few months I’ve reported on a female runner being attacked in New York, followed in Delaware, and murdered in Vancouver. I plan to address the particular issues that face women runners – and walkers and cyclists – in my book in a chapter that details ways women alter their lives because of actual or feared harassment.
Wouldn’t it be nice if men never harassed or assaulted women? Then we could run in peace and with peace of mind.