for swale

"Boys will be Boys" is Not an Excuse

Running is something I’ve always done, I prefer to do it alone.

Whenever I lace up my sneakers, I have to think about exactly where I’m going to run, what dogs along that route are likely to spring out of their yards in pursuit of fresh “runner meat”, as well as the possibility of being sexually harassed. Something I like many other women deals with on a daily basis.

With my headphones in and Garmin set, I began to weave my way through one of my usual routes, free of “bad dogs”.

A mile or so into my run a vehicle started coming up fast behind me. Running through an area with dirt roads, when vehicles are coming and going the dust kicks up. I moved to the edge of the road, just along the swale and continued my course.

To my dismay, the truck didn’t speed past. Instead, it crept behind me and over my headphones I heard shouting.

“How ‘bout them shorts” “Where are you going?” ”Can I get some of that?”

In the pickup truck sat three men roughly my age.

When these situations happen there are several things that rush through my mind:

  1. Is anyone else around? No, all the houses seem empty. No one’s out in their yard.
  2. How far away am I from the main road with traffic and people? A half mile.
  3. Is it worth it to acknowledge their behavior? Nope, It could only provoke them more.

With these things running through my mind the truck now rode parallel to me and the men kept at their comments. I looked away and kept running, but my decision to ignore them only made them worse. The comments went from cat calls to insults.

“whore” “bitch” “skank”

The truck then veered sharply toward me, running me off the road with the ensemble laughing and continuing their commentary. Panicked, I ran as fast as I could in the swale and into the nearest yard. I stayed in that yard until I was sure that they had left.

I’m fortunate. I know for countless others situations like these escalate into something much worse like the scenarios I was conjuring up while running into that yard, as fast as my legs could carry me. I was out on a run, an activity that usually relaxes me, but today I found myself in a situation where I feared for my safety, future, and life. I wasn’t “asking for it”. I wasn’t in an area I felt was unsafe. I was in my own neighborhood on a route I’ve run hundreds of times.

Sexual harassment is not okay. It’s not funny, It’s unacceptable, AND illegal. That’s why after returning home I sat down to write my story. To inform and hopefully open your eyes to the issue at hand. How would you feel if I was your mother, your sister, or significant other? Learn about the problem and prevent it from happening to others. Don’t be a bystander. Be a defender. “Boys will be boys” is not an excuse. Please help stop this from being acceptable in our culture.

Sincerely, Michelle