For Jennifer George, running before the sun comes up is idyllic; the perfect way to start a day. On one particular early run in 2013, she laced up and got out the door shortly before 5:30. Trotting along Boston’s Charles River, it was business as usual until she noticed another runner about 50 yards ahead of her was slowing her pace dramatically. From a distance, she spotted a sedan nearby come to a stop, then reverse. The runner stopped. In about 10 seconds, George was closing in.
“I heard the passengers in the car taunting her, saying things like ‘you look so good in that Spandex,’ clearly harassing her,” she says. “I didn’t even think twice. I got up to her, grabbed her hand, and told them ‘leave my friend alone’.”
George recalls tugging her new companion away with her. The two of them went sprinting down the esplanade. Once the two women reached a park without road access, the two hugged. “She thanked me, neither of us had really known exactly what to say or do. Then, we parted ways and I never saw her again.”
Reflecting on the experience today, George says she would take the same action. “I’d want someone to do the same thing if it were me being attacked.”
And these attacks happen often. A whopping 84 percent of women Runner’s World surveyed have experienced some kind of harassment while running that left them feeling unsafe. The types of harassment vary greatly, from verbal attacks to physical assault. So does the likelihood that a bystander will intervene.
“When I’ve been harassed on the run, I’ve always thought why didn’t anyone say anything to me?” says Hannah Pennington, NYC Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. “You feel so exposed. You might want comfort.”
No one ever wants to watch someone endure harassment, especially not while doing an activity that brings them joy. Still, there are right and wrong times to step in, experts say. Here, we address three important questions to ask when you have the opportunity to stand up for someone.
1. Where are you? The last thing you want to do by getting involved is create a more dangerous situation, such as scaring someone into oncoming traffic. Take stock of your surroundings, and make sure that if you’re going to do something like yell to scare the assailant—drawing attention away from someone who may feel defenseless—that you’re not putting the victim in more danger. “You may not always be perfect in your strategies, but it’s important to have good intentions and survey your surroundings,” says Pennington.
2. Is the victim open to it? Depending on the scenario, the person you’re trying to help may want to flee without any intervention whatsoever. In this instance, you can attempt to approach the situation like George did. Feel it out. “Being an upstander does not mean being a hero all of the time,” says Jewel Cadet, director of programs for Brooklyn’s Center for Anti-Violence Education. The person you’re trying to help may not be receptive to your assistance. “They have the opportunity to react to you being an upstander just like you have the opportunity to be an upstander in the first place.”
Cadet suggests approaching casually, trying not to further scare the person in danger. “You don’t want to rock the boat,” she says. “You want to make it known that you’re available, and then take their lead.”
3. Is it safe? This is the most important question of all. Particularly if the situation has gotten physical, it’s important to make sure you take full stock of what’s happening before you voluntarily insert yourself. “If something is already happening and you arrive on the scene, you cannot be hard on yourself for an inability to act,” says Cadet. “Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not able to help.”
If you happen upon a dangerous situation, it might be appropriate to contact the police or record the alleged harassment. Documenting a situation by recording on your phone or writing notes can be helpful to law enforcement or the individual after-the-fact.
That said, “never post or share a video without the consent of the person being harmed,” Cadet says. “Putting a video (or even a picture) online can open you or the person who was harmed up to harassment, doxxing, or other continued harm. Plus, it may involve law enforcement even if the person harmed doesn't want that.”
If the situation ends while you're present, you can then follow-up to see if the victim would like a copy of the video. It should be their decision of what they want to do with it, Cadet says.
The Runners Alliance is an initiative to help make running safer for women. adidas coachella collaboration tickets for sale.