‘Stuck up bitch…’
‘Think you’re too good for me…’
I consider myself a fairly worldly sort of guy. World weary in a lot of ways. Well travelled, a police officer who’s spent his whole 16 years service in uniform dealing with the worst society has to offer.
But when I tweeted out a BBC report (here) earlier this week I was completely unprepared for what followed. I expected a few replies, some female friends saying the’d been subjected to similar. A few shared stories and anecdotes. And not much more.
Because if I’m honest, though I knew things like this did happen, I had, naively, thought in 2017 we were a somewhat different society. What I found instead 250 replies later was that the issue, the problem, is actually probably underreported than anything else.
I found friends who told me that being heckled and abused was so common nowadays they considered it as being completely natural. And honestly that blew me away. That they could use a word like natural to describe something that the law and civilised society would consider an offence saddened me. They described levels of sexual abuse which would, in any other context, be immediately recognised by any right thinking person as an offence. But perhaps because the recipient was wearing lycra this made it somehow ok for the perpetrator. As if it was merely banter.
As I researched a little more I came upon article upon article on the subject. Suggestion upon tip upon recommendation almost all with one central theme in common: change your behaviour. Almost everyone told women to change what they were doing. Wear less revealing clothes. Change your route. Carry a whistle.
Now I know there’s a danger here of my coming across as patronising or even worse veering into the dreaded ‘mansplaining’ but why are we asking women to change their behaviour? Why are we asking people to adapt what they’re doing when they’re not the ones doing anything wrong. Why aren’t we trying to change the behaviour of the people perpetuating this kind of abuse?
Of course suggestions on safety are sensible. Of course we should all take more care and be aware of our surroundings when we’re running. But I run because it gives me an incredible sense of freedom and if someone tried to tell me to change my behaviour when I’d done nothing wrong I’d quite understandably be upset. But since the kind of people who abuse others aren’t the same people who are likely to be reading this article, or following me on Twitter then we need to find another way to reach them.
Tell them their behaviour needs to change. Make them feel like they’re the ones in the wrong. So my question to you is this. How?
How do I, and you, get across to the wider public that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. At Run 247 we’re committed to making this an issue we’re willing to fight for. So we want to hear your suggestions. I’d love to hear from you.