For US women who run, fear of assault is shockingly common – but the solution remains unclear
A small percentage of female runners carry a gun, while others say they are not a safe option for self-defense – but runners and experts agree more needs to be done to protect women
O n 3 September 2022, a 34-year-old mother of two named Eliza Fletcher was brutally kidnapped and murdered while running near her home in Tennessee. For women, the story, although tragic, is one they’ve heard too many times. And it is forcing some of them to take extreme measures.
The majority of US women have worried about harassment while in public spaces during their lifetime. According to a 2019 national study on sexual assault by Stop Street Harassment and the University of California San Diego Center on Gender Equity plus Health (GEH), 81% of US women have experienced some form of sex harassment or assault.
For some women, threats while running are so significant that they’ve turned to carrying a concealed firearm.
Although women’s vulnerability while operating or walking is clear, no one can seem to agree on the solution. Some argue the danger is low – murders of women out running are rare, although they often attract plenty of media attention. Based on a 2017 Runner’s World study , for women between the ages associated with 16 and 44, there is only an one in 35, 336 chance of being a victim of homicide at any time – and most women are killed by someone they know, rather than a random stranger. However , incidents of sexual nuisance not ending in abduction, serious injury or death are common and can have serious negative affects for women. According to the GEH, lovemaking harassment while running or even walking causes women, “to feel anxiety or depression and prompt(s) them to change their route or regular routine”. Holly Kearl, Founder of Stop Street Harassment and author of the book 50 Stories About Stopping Street Harassers , states, “Street harassment is not a joke or a compliment. [It] is a human rights violation because it prevents ladies from having equal access to public spaces. ”
Women who experience sexual harassment and assault while working agree that the effects are usually long-lasting plus significant. But each woman who has been threatened whilst running is not identical, and neither are the stories of those who work with a gun.
Jamie, the 40-year-old runner who prefers to withhold her last name for privacy, says, “Women who carry while operating are not monolithic, but we are often characterized as such in the media. We are characterized as right-wing, aggressive, backwards-thinking plus ignorant of the risks associated with gun ownership. I am none of these. I am educated, politically moderate and sane. ”
Jamie goes on to describe her own experiences. “I was followed around a popular lake trail by a man who exposed himself to me … about a half mile later, I heard steps behind me and it has been him. ” It was getting dark, plus Jamie realized she had been alone with the man, that she assumed was strong enough to overpower her. He came closer and closer, ignoring her entreaties to leave the girl alone, and backed her into some trees. Finally, “I put my hand on my [up until then concealed] pistol like I was about to draw and I told him to get away from me. ” Suddenly, Jamie’s aggressor completely changed his demeanor, telling her in order to, “stay safe”, and running away.
Amy Robbins, a runner from Dallas, Texas, began carrying weapons on runs after she was adopted and verbally harassed by a van full of men within 2015. “I got home and told myself I’d never be in this situation again, ” says Robbins. She also understands the difficulty in carrying weaponry with sportswear and founded Alexo Athletica , a company designing shorts and tights for concealed carry.
Not everyone is an advocate for carrying guns. David Hemenway, PhD , a professor of Health Policy at the Harvard TH Chan School associated with Public Health, does not recommend guns as a self-defense tool for runners. Hemenway states “when looking at data regarding defensive gun use in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), there was no evidence that weapon use reduced the likelihood of injuries during attacks on females. ” Hemenway adds that this percentage of American women who have a gun is small: in a 2016 Runner’s World survey of 4, 670 joggers, only 1% of women said they run with a weapon.
Hemenway also says that in his opinion, some Carrying a Concealed Weapon (CCW) courses are faulty. “Being able to stand still, carefully aim plus shoot the target is not going to help you if you’re attacked. Your heart will be pounding, your fight or flight kicks in, adrenaline is flowing, it’s a very different situation than when you’re standing in a gun range, ” he says.
As an alternative to transporting a gun, Hemenway suggests ladies who feel threatened choose a different path or run during the day, in groups. If a woman feels she needs protection, “bear spray (also known as mace or pepper spray) is much safer to use and just while effective like a gun would be, ” he admits that.
However , advice like Hemenway’s – running in daylight, or even in a group, puts the particular onus about female athletes and is not realistic for all women. Work, personal and family schedules mean that females need to fit in their operates when they can, just like their male counterparts. Some experts advocate for shifting the responsibility of ensuring women’s safety to men. Eliza Fletcher was attacked while on her pre-dawn run, wearing running pants and a sports bra, and some online commenters have suggested she is partly to blame for the girl attack. Yet Kearl says that “if [women] don’t follow every guideline, they may face blame and that’s not OK … the blame for men attacking women should only lie with those men. ”
Like Hemenway, Kearl agrees that will guns are not a safe option for self-defense. But she adds, “our society must do more to stop men from committing violence against us. Women and girls should not have to feel like prey and men and boys should not be socialized to be predators. ”
Some sportsmen agree that carrying a gun is not the best way to stay safe on a run. Kayla Kowalsko, a 30-year-old runner, took multiple CCW courses plus ran with a firearm until she, “attended a self-defense class that will provided a ton of information We didn’t receive when I required my CCW course … if another person is within 20 feet associated with you, your own reaction time is too slow to pull a weapon and fire it. ” Kowalsko adds: “That person could take your weapon and use it against you or others. I’d rather take my safety into literally my own hands than give someone a huge upper hand. ”
Gender-based assault self-defense specialists like Lauren R Taylor also advocate for women using their own bodies over a weapon. Taylor is the founder of Defend Yourself , an organization that describes its mission as “helping people claim their power, assert their own boundaries plus protect themselves, ” as well as the author from the book Get Empowered: A Practical Guide to Thrive, Heal, and Embrace Your Confidence in a Sexist World, which will be released next year.
Taylor advocates for people doing whatever works for them, but , “in general I’m in favor of using things you have on you all the time, such as your voice, brain, elbows, feet and hands. Weapons as weapons can be picked up and used against all of us, whereas your hands, feet plus voice can’t … I also know people who were relying on a tool and in the moment, couldn’t get to that tool. ”
Referring to NCVS data evidence that guns used in self-defense do not reduce the victim’s likelihood of injury, Taylor swift says, “Data, such as it is, on using guns successfully in self-defense as opposed to accidental injuries or death, would lead a person to an anti-gun status. You’re much more likely to hurt yourself or even someone you care about than you are in order to hurt somebody trying to harm you. ”
Some ladies choose to bring a gun because of the particular environment in which they run. Julie, a 40-year-old from Tacoma, Washington, who else also favors to withold her surname, took seven CCW classes, in addition to serving in the US Army. For her, living in a particularly dangerous area contributed to her decision to run having a weapon: “I run inside Point Defiance Park, which is large and wooded. Even if I yelled and screamed I might not be heard . [and] Tacoma is on track to have the highest murder rate ever this year. It just keeps obtaining worse. ”
Opinions may vary about holding guns, yet runners plus experts can agree on one thing: more must be done to safeguard women. Ladies receive all sorts of advice: change your route and don’t work at night; or run using a weapon; or even demand more change from as well as society to prevent normalizing street harassment. But after hearing the harrowing stories through female sports people about the attack and nuisance they routinely endure, it really is difficult to judge anyone for the choice they make. Taylor explains, “This is about options. Nobody can tell a person what to do, our job is to add tools to your toolbox. When you’re in a situation that will feels threatening, only you can decide what is best. ”
At the end of the day, females want to head out for a run worrying whether they’ve double tied their particular shoelaces, or if they ate the right pre-run meal, not really whether they’re going to be attacked or even harassed. Jamie says that when she heads out along with her hidden firearm, “I feel like I can move in the world and do normal things without fear. I actually wonder if that is what a guy feels, like he’s lacing up for a run? ”