- Pepper Spray
- Stun Guns
- Personal Alarms
- Bear Spray and Accessories
- Dog Spray
- Home Security
- Personal Safety Training
Read the original article by Women's Running Magazine here.
When Kamilah Journét, now 28, was training with her cross-country teammates at the University of California-San Diego in 2010, her coach instructed the women to run in pairs and to slow down, stop and wait if their partners were having a slow day or even needed to stop to tie a shoe. She later realized they’d been given these instructions because they were running at Lake Hodges, where 17-year-old Chelsea King went missing while out on a run months earlier, with her body later discovered buried by the shore.
“This wasn’t the first time I realized running as a woman came with added responsibility, but it was the most impactful,” Journét, who works as a marketing manager and is a member of the Hare Athletic Club at Tracksmith, says. “There’s a collective acknowledgement that this problem (of violent attacks) against women of all walks of life exists, but, ultimately, limited progress is made to change the world we live in. It should be as simple as ‘respect women, abide by their boundaries and don’t attack them,’ but it’s not. This problem isn’t new, and it’s something I’ve dealt with for years.”
Unfortunately, Journét’s sentiment is not uncommon. A sense of vulnerability and personal experiences with compromised safety is, unfortunately, something that virtually all women are well-acquainted with. According to a 2019 survey by Stop Street Harrassment and the University of California, San Diego Center on Gender Equity and Health, 68% of U.S. women have experienced sexual harassment or assault in public spaces such as streets, trails and parks. While murder is rare, harassment obviously is not, and actions such as catcalls and being followed are arguably not harmless, as the person on the receiving end can’t respond or react knowing that it won’t escalate to something more violent.
Stories like King’s murder pop up in the news all too frequently, leading female runners to be familiar with the names of those lost while doing what they loved, more recently with Mollie Tibbetts in Brooklyn, Iowa to Karina Vetrano in Queens, New York, Wendy Karina Martinez in Washington, D.C. and Sarmistha Sen in Plano, Texas. These stories coincided with the rise of the #MeToo movement that prompted women to publicly share if they’d ever experienced any form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. Most recently, media coverage of the murder of 25-year-old Sydney Sutherland in Jackson County, Arkansas, showcased that one of the core issues in talking about violence prevention is that it’s often framed as a “women’s issue” with advice leaning more toward victim-blaming rather than making real progress.
After 27-year-old Vanessa Marcotte was killed in a random attack while running in Princeton, Massachusetts, in August 2016, her cousin Caroline Tocci and best friend Ashley McNiff created the Vanessa T. Marcotte Foundation, which works to educate and empower women through self-defense and safety tactics in the Central Massachusetts area. With the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve been able to expand their sessions virtually to women across the country.
However, as they got going on the project, Tocci and McNiff realized that another big piece of the equation was addressing the root cause of violence against women. They included programs geared toward boys and men in their lineup in an effort to challenge existing gender stereotypes that often lead to violence against women. This month, the foundation introduced a webinar that discusses how society should be socializing and teaching boys and young men of all backgrounds to play a key role in reducing violence against women and how bystander approaches can empower men to confront abusive peers.
“We’re aiming to move away from victim-blaming as a prevention tactic, because women already have to think about so many things when they run alone,” McNiff said. “While our hope is that women can one day not have to worry about safety awareness and can live without fear of objectification and harassment, we really have a long way to go and there’s a lot of work to be done to recognize this as a humankind issue versus just a women’s issue.”
Similarly, the Sexual Violence Response program (which also serves as a New York City rape crisis center) at Columbia University in New York provides mandatory bystander intervention training to all university students. This programming aims to help participants understand the ways in which power and control manifests physically, mentally and emotionally, dynamics which come into play with running and utilizing public spaces comfortably, says Debjani Roy, assistant director of training and prevention for the SVR program.Back to Pressroom