Every so often there is an upsurge in concern about the safety of female runners. The murder of Ashling Murphy, in January this year, prompted the most recent swell of interest in the subject. And anger too. With up to half of women who run saying that they have been harassed while running, their is a significant amount of ire around the subject. A change for the better is much needed. But how?
Recent, questionable advice
Historically advice has centred around how women can act to protect themselves. This included being advised not to run alone, not to run in certain areas, not to dress in a certain way, etc. Unsurprisingly this isn't always taken well. Although often well-intended, and sometimes sensible, the fact that women are constantly expected to compromise and be more 'careful' than men is at the very least unfair.
A desire to address the root cause of the problem has been gaining favour. If we can encourage good behaviour, particularly in young men (who make up the vast majority of offenders) this should, in theory, lower the rate of harassment, etc. If we can realise how to do this, the world can be a safer place to run for all of us.
A number of positive suggestions have been made (re-stated?), with which we very much agree. These include :
Challenge unfair / offensive statements in social situations
By actively disagreeing with friends, colleagues, etc when they make misogynistic (and similar) comments, this will establish / reinforce that it is unacceptable.
Run with greater consideration of female runners.
Effectively this is a list of suggestions, mainly for male runners, about how to run in a way that doesn't make women nervous, e.g. let them know when you are about to pass them, and leave as much space as possible when doing so.
We're not convinced this will reduce harm or harassment. The 'problem minority' are unlikely to be more considerate. However, if the good-minded majority keep up or better adopt these habits, it will hopefully go some way towards preventing or reducing unease.
Government and public organisations show zero tolerance of harassment
The public sector and sporting organisations need to actively promote fair behaviour and clamp down of all forms of harassment. As UKA’s Development Director Mark Munro said " We must stand together and ensure zero tolerance towards any such behaviour and make sure that everyone should feel comfortable and has the right to be safe exercising in public".