“Make sure to have your Strava beacon on.”
“Text me when you are back home.”
“Carry a sharp object in your hand for safety.”
“If you aren’t back in 30 minutes, I am calling the police.”
Sound familiar? How often have you said these things? Every woman should have the right to run without fear.
In June of this year, a local Toronto running group called ChixRunthe6ix held a group run. The significance of this group run rings LOUD and CLEAR today and AGAIN, as Memphis police identify a body of woman who was abducted and killed on Friday, September 2nd. Eliza “Liza” Fletcher was out for a run at 4 a.m. last Friday. She was a runner, a teacher, a mother of two children, a friend and a wife.
This has to stop.
The event organized and hosted by ChixRunthe6ix was to call attention to the issue of unsafe public spaces and to talk about how we can contribute to moving the dial on women’s running safety.
When founding members Kim, Shazia, Amanda and Chantal created ChixRunthe6ix two years ago, it was with the objective of starting a run group that created a space that was approachable, motivational and inclusive for women to come together to run, walk, and move—with no one left behind.
They expected women to become members—to meet new faces, find their place and pace, and cheer each other on. They were so incredibly proud of everyone who had joined them on this journey and those who have contributed in our efforts to make things a little bit better for others.
What they did NOT expect is to have these same women share their personal stories about harassment while running. They have countless stories of members in their community who have been the recipient of sexist and degrading remarks, offensive and rude catcalls and wolf whistles, and worse, including sexual and physical harassment.
In a recent survey of 2,000 runners (sponsored by Runner’s World and Women’s Health), only 8% of women said they were OK to run outside, no matter how dark it is. JUST 8%!!
Moreover, 25% of women experience sexual harassment on a run REGULARLY.
On December 1st, 2021, co-founder Amanda Richardson, on her 40th birthday, had a man physically assault her on the Riverdale park track, leaving her with physical, mental and emotional trauma.
The group quickly came together and “took back the track” at a special event where several supporters, runners, and allies—male and female—came together in solidarity to show their support for bringing women’s safety to the forefront.
An anonymous Chix member was so affected by what occurred, she reached out asking how she could help. She decided that she could help move the dial by purchasing one hundred safety alarms for our members. There was no special discount, no sponsorship or promotion, no benefit or tax receipt. This donor simply wanted to do something.
The issue is enormous and far-reaching and not unique to North America. Policy change needs to continue until sexual harassment stops.
Elizabeth King, a journalist at Complex, said it best when she said: “Street harassment is a dangerous public issue: Publicly and repeatedly objectifying women creates an unsafe environment, which can and does turn violent. It’s not uncommon for women to be harassed or stalked in public by men who later commit violence against them, including rape and murder.”
The group believes that catcalling is like the gateway drug. It’s a “small” (yet big) action that can lead to bigger, more harmful behaviour and further, dire consequences. Moving this “dial” requires all of us and our goal is big.
We want cat calling to be illegal in Canada.
How can the run community help? Make your voice heard for the safety and protection of runners everywhere. This simple effort can make a world of a difference today and for our young runners of tomorrow who will grow up running our same roads and trails and deserve to do so with confidence and security.
You can start to make change on this issue by contacting your local MPP and telling them why this is important. And please, let’s all have the conversation with the males in your life and invite them as allies. Males needs to be having conversations with other males about their harmful behaviour.
Otherwise, When Will It Stop?