With it being a new year, many people will have made the resolution to get fit and shed the excesses of the festive period. Whether you’re new to running or cycling or have been doing it for years, Avon and Somerset Police’s new #JogOn
campaign aims to give you some practical tips and guidance on how to stay safe and feel confident in your local streets, park, or footpath.
The police are working in partnership with Bristol Zero Tolerance, whose Street Harassment project has heard first hand experiences from women who have felt intimidated or harassed whilst exercising. One respondent said: “It’s mainly being shouted at in the street when on my bike – either derogatory comments about my weight or sexual comments. I have also been grabbed by men reaching out of car windows whilst I cycle.” Another respondent said they had been followed by a man whilst out running.
Run4Life, a Bristol City Council led initiative which aims to get people out running, have also fed into the campaign, with their run leaders talking about about negative experiences that their runners have had, which have left them feeling scared or demoralised. Rose, who volunteers as a run leader in Hengrove describes how young people often run along-side her group and say things like: ‘Hey fatty, legs up, you can go faster than that’. Rose said: “The people they usually pick on have low self-esteem already, and this could make the difference to them coming back the following week or not.”
Marie, another run leader in Hengrove said: “The most hurtful comments have to be to our larger runners. It’s disgusting and really knocks their confidence.
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens said: “As a keen runner myself, getting outside and exercising is not only good for your physical health but for your happiness and wellbeing too.
“Being catcalled or harassed while out exercising should not be the norm and #JogOn will hopefully empower people to put their trainers on and enjoy getting outdoors without being scared or intimidated.
“If you do experience any harassment or unwanted behaviour, report the incident to the police as soon as possible and warn fellow runners in your community.”
Detective Superintendent Marie Wright said: “Not everyone can afford a gym membership and getting outside in the fresh air is good for your health and wellbeing. I want to empower people to feel safe and confident whilst outside exercising.
“Unfortunately, we know that some people, usually women, can feel uncomfortable, intimidated or scared to go out for a run, especially in the winter when the nights are longer and there is less opportunity to be outdoors during daylight.
“Exercising in a group can be a great way to help you feel safe, keep you motivated and deter threatening behaviour, so why not join your local running club? Stay alert to your surroundings and if you’re heckled, try to remain calm. I know this can be hard, but getting angry or entering into a dispute could escalate the situation.
“What I would encourage is for people to report to us any incidents of harassment or threatening behaviour, even if you cannot identify the perpetrator. Telling us may not always lead to an arrest, but it can help us to build up a picture of local issues, so that we can allocate resources appropriately. Reporting could also help to stop this happening to someone else.
“Everyone should be able to enjoy the great outdoors and exercise wherever and whenever they choose to. Anyone who thinks it’s ok to harass and intimidate others is mistaken – your behaviour won’t be tolerated.”
Charlotte Gage from Bristol Zero Tolerance said: “Women should feel empowered to respond to harassment, if they feel safe to, to show that this behaviour is not acceptable or ‘normal.’ But keep engagement brief; try not to lose your temper or to get involved in a dispute which could escalate to anger and violence, as we know that this is often what underlies supposed ‘compliments’.
“We are lucky that in Avon and Somerset gender-based harassment is understood as a hate crime and so can be reported to the police in this way. This acknowledges how serious this kind of behaviour is and the impact it can have on women.
“We also hope that bystanders will feel able to support women who are being harassed to show a community response that this behaviour is not tolerated here.”
Bristol Zero Tolerance have produced a toolkit on responding to gender-based harassment including how to report to the police and what bystanders can do: http://www.bristolzerotolerance.com/take-action/take-action-as-an-individual/
#JOG ON stands for Join together - Remain Observant - Give us a call. Here are the tops tips to stay and feel safe whilst exercising outdoors:
- Consider exercising in a group to gain confidence from others and the support of a network. Group activities are more sociable and avoids the need for headphones, which can deter threatening behaviour. They can also motivate you to stick to your fitness goals!
- A joined up approach can tackle this behaviour. Get support from your local community and share a warning to perpetrators by putting up posters in problem areas or sharing social media posts to promote a message of zero tolerance. Download our poster and social media graphic from the ASP website
- Be alert but not worried. Enjoy your time exercising and remember your safety should always be your priority.
- If an incident occurs, note distinguishing features like a company name, vehicle type or personal description and remember the time and location. It is also legal to take photos if a crime has occurred.
- Stay cool and remain an ‘observer’. Responding to hecklers isn’t always the safe or appropriate thing to do, as it can encourage further exchanges and escalate the situation.
Give us a call
- If the incident is in progress we may be able to respond immediately so call 101. If it is an emergency or you feel in danger always call 999. You can also report online after the incident and this can be anonymous.
- Telling the police could result in a warning, a community resolution or possibly a conviction, especially for repeat offenders.
- Reports may not always result in arrest but your information ensures police are aware of local issues and can develop a strategy to tackle them. You may be able to prevent this happening to someone else.
Posted on Monday 21st January 2019