Don’t run alone – useful advice for women or a continuation of victim blaming?

by Jade Secker

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Image from #ThisGirlCan 

How many people run in the UK? Whether as a means of stress relief, to get fit or as part of a running club; the numbers are in their millions. Especially with the warmer weather on the way and the London Marathon sprinkling inspiration across the nation. Furthermore, with thanks to campaigns such as “This Girl Can”, a record number of women are now putting on their trainers and heading for the outdoors. This is great news; not only for the nations physical health but exercise is also known to reduce stress and anxiety and so could have a positive impact on mental health too.

REACTIONS ARE DISTURBING

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Imagery from the #JogOn campaign

However, disturbingly, I recently came across the #JogOn campaign released by Avon and Somerset Police Force urging women to only run in pairs or groups to help prevent sexual abuse and threatening behaviour from men. This goes hand in hand with other statements from police forces advising women to not wear headphones whilst out walking or running, again, to avoid becoming the prey of sexual predators lurking in society.

 

FUELLING A VICTIM BLAMING CULTURE

Now whilst this may be seen by many as simple advice to try and tackle a growing issue, for me it is fuelling a victim blaming culture that puts the responsibility on women to change very normal behaviours and avoids the real problem.

Jessica Eaton, a campaigner against sexual violence commented saying,

“Headphones don’t rape women, nor do skirts, or dark streets, or clubs, or alcohol, or parties, or sleepovers, or school uniforms. Name the perpetrators. Name the problem. We can’t help if we can’t even name it.”

And I could not agree more.

IT IS CATEGORICALLY WRONG

How many reports of sexual assault do we see where the article will comment on what a woman was wearing or where she was walking alone when an attack took place. Why does this matter? Wording like this adds to a belief that ‘she was asking for it,’ and this is categorically wrong. It is not illegal to walk alone, wear headphones, or wear a short skirt. However, it IS illegal to physically assault, harass or rape someone.

WE NEED TO REJECT THE NOTION

crime scene do not cross signage

As a society we need to stop putting the onus on women to change their behaviour – behaviours that we all exhibit and should be free to, without having to worry whether we may or may not get attacked.  Instead we need to turn our attention to the crimes taking place on a daily basis and reject any notion of this being acceptable behaviour.

LET’S STOP PRETENDING

Unfortunately, we do live in a scary world and so there is a level of personal care and safety that everyone should undertake; this I understand. However, if we stand any sort of chance to tackling the breadth of these crimes, we need to see a major shift in focus and stop turning a blind eye to what is truly going on.

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Let’s stop suggesting changes women need to make to prevent attacks happening to them and shift our attention to putting firmer laws and punishments into place to stop attacks happening in the first place; fundamentally, this is much closer to the core of the problem and the only thing that will ever make violent individuals accountable for their actions.

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Jade Secker is the senior community fundraiser at The Haven Wolverhampton. You can connect with Jade Secker on LinkedIn hereThe Haven Wolverhampton is a charity that supporting women and dependent children who are vulnerable to domestic violence, homelessness and abuse. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or visit there website here.

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