#MeToo – Women Runners’ Experiences of Sexual Violence, Assault and Harassment

Hops’ Story:

I was out for a run one Sunday morning, probably thinking about a recent track race or what I was going to wear to church that day. I was 16 years old. A man crossed the street in front of me and started walking the same direction that I was running. Just as I was about to pass him and give a friendly “hello” he turned around. I froze. He grabbed me, pushed me into the woods and sexually assaulted me. Years later, while I was in college, I found out they had caught him using DNA evidence from the crime scene. He had been arrested for doing the same thing to an elderly woman. They compared his sample to a sample from my case and got a match. And my case wasn’t the only match, I’m sure.

It wasn’t about what I was wearing or how I looked. He was a terrible man, and did a terrible thing to me. And yet, the comments that came after the attack seemed to place some of the blame on me, the victim.

“Why were you out running by yourself?”

“Why didn’t you just turn around and run away?”

“You should have been carrying pepper spray.”

This is my reality. Our reality as women. I took those comments to heart. I don’t like to run by myself now, and I usually run with pepper spray if I have to run alone. I don’t know why I froze in that moment, but I did.

I could have chosen to quit running, out of fear. But I am persistent if anything.

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Ultrarunner, adventurer, academic, and feminist. Running Across the USA in 2021. I write about ultrarunning, adventuring, and the intersection of endurance athletics and life.

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  1. Every day, I hear another story. Yesterday it was Kevin Spacey. This morning it’s the NPR New Chief. If every man who has ever sexually harassed someone got a news story for it, the news would be even more full of jerk guys than it already is, and I’m not sure how that’s possible. It’s never-ending. But maybe, just maybe, we can build up enough momentum that some men will think twice. Maybe we can plant our feet, take a stand, and push back. Push back against institutional sexism, push back against harassment being something we almost expect when we try to advance our careers, push back against men who think we’re out there running for their personal gratification (both by ogling us, or by us being in shape to look more attractive to them). Maybe.

    All we can do is try.

    1. I am so disappointed everyday as we learn about more prominent men who have abused, harassed, and raped others (not just women). It demonstrates a systemic problem and, more clearly than before, illustrates that this is about power. Every day, every time we call it out, every time we run, every time we refuse to be silent, we chip away and someday, hopefully soon, we’ll break through.

  2. I hate that you have to write this, but I am glad you did. The attitude that allows for this is so ingrained in our society, that it is difficult for most people to even see… “that’s just how it is”. If we don’t point it out, it’ll never be noticed or changed. That being said, once you do start calling guys out on their behavior you quickly go from being “nice” to “bitchy”.

    This happens more at work than when I am running. I work in a male dominated field that often requires working in remote locations. By 1 year into my career I had to report two guys for harassment who just wouldn’t leave me alone no matter how I asked. There were numerous others who were a little less persistent. About this time, a co-worker (guy) told me “you know, you were this really nice girl when you started, now you’re kind of a bitch”. At the time, that bummed me out and it felt like I couldn’t win. Now I am proud of the label, I hope it makes them think “don’t f**king mess with her”.

    1. Good for you for reporting them! Sorry you have to deal with them, though. I’m with you — I’d rather the bitch you don’t mess with than the girl taking their shit.