A year ago I voiced my opinion on the fact that harassment when out running is unacceptable. It frustrated me how in general, the advice given was around runners changing their behaviour. The way these messages were communicated could, in my opinion, instil fear and even stop people from discovering the physical and mental health benefits of running.
When writing an update on my investigations I had hoped I would have big news to tell you all. Something solid, something that moved us forward with this issue.
Things aren’t always as straightforward. Before I launch into a rather long post I want to highlight two things.
- I want to recognise the fact that the organisations I have spoken with about this issue have gone out of their way to give me their time. Time, which I know is lacking in public service organisations. Whilst the outcome isn’t yet satisfactory, I am very grateful for their support to date.
- I went into this naively. I ranted about the ways others had approached the issue, and that, in hindsight, may have been wrong. The further I delve into this, the more I realise that it isn’t black and white. It’s not as simple as telling the idiots doing the harassment to stop.
SportScotland and Police Scotland
So what have I been doing for the last year ?
When I initially raised this issue I contacted SportScotland and Police Scotland. Both who were very receptive. Stewart Harris, the CEO of SportScotland was very supportive and after many phone calls we decided that a meeting to discuss the issue in full was the best idea. And in all, it was a positive meeting. SportScotland seemed to recognise that it was an issue which needs addressed, and Police Scotland, whilst not wanting to be involved directly were happy to support in other ways. Both organisations however highlighted their main concerns:
- It’s pretty difficult to target the people doing the actual harassment
- It’s hard to explain to people how to stay safe without scaring them
I began to realise that issue may be more about empowering runners than targeting the people doing the harassment.
From here the plan was to get JogScotland involved. As Scotland’s official running community, it felt apt for them to take things forward. SportScotland started the conversation with them, however this is where things started to lose traction. They weren’t keen to meet with me, and were concerned that doing a full campaign on this issue wasn’t appropriate as they want to avoid making people feel more scared than they need to.
Communicating difficult messages
I have to 100% agree with them here. Scaring people is the LAST thing I wanted any of this to do. However, just because a message is hard to communicate in the right way, doesn’t mean it should be avoided all together.
They also raised that it isn’t something that has been raised as a significant ongoing issue within their membership and they also believe their members are aware of common sense advice around keeping themselves safe.
It’s obviously great to hear they aren’t experiencing this as an issue, however I’m not overly surprised as they will be running mostly in groups. Also, sadly, not everyone is aware of common sense advice and not everyone can, or wants to, run in groups.
And this is where things are pretty much stuck. So what are my thoughts on all of this to date? For me there are some main avenues to consider:
- Whatever is done must empower runners not scare them
- It must equip them with the confidence and knowledge to run safely.
- It must also equip them with the knowledge and confidence of what to do if something does happen to them.
- They need a channel to report this which is easy and helps highlight that they are not alone in this issue.
- They need to know when they can report an incident to the police and how to do so.
So where now? At the moment, I honestly don’t know. I’m going to be spending some time thinking over everything I’ve learnt over the past year and try to find a step forward. After ranting so much in the beginning, I thought you all deserved an update.
So, if anyone wants to talk to me about this issue, please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you to everyone to date with your support on this.