Intisar Abdul-Kader, 34, an NHS public health practitioner from Harrow told us her story of harassment on the run.
I got into long-distance running 10 years ago and now head out three or four times a week, averaging around 40k across a range of easy runs, speed sessions and long-distance runs. I’ll often get unwanted comments from passing drivers, these have increased since the first lockdown.
I’m Muslim, and my faith is obvious because I wear the hijab – I’ll also wear long sleeves and, if I’m wearing running tights, I’ll wear a longer top that covers my hips.Last summer, a man in a coffee shop yelled, “I’m sure your God would allow you to show some skin and hair. It’s hot and you’re hot.” The simultaneous racism and sexism threw me and left me feeling completely exposed. To me, that’s sexual assault.
The catch-22 women find themselves in is infuriating: you get wrongly blamed for harassment if you don’t wear much, but are still shouted at when you’re covered up. Meanwhile, men run in shorts all the time and no one comments on their physique or how they look.
Despite my anger, I’ve never shouted back or reported any harassmentI’ve received – I think that’s because I’m more concerned about my safety than correcting their behaviour. I try my best to run in daylight, and if I do run at night, I stick to busy, well-lit streets and wear clip-on lights on my shoes; I always tell my family my route and when roughly to expect me back. Do I think it’s fair I need to do these things? No. But I will keep on running – for me, it’s an act of defiance.’
Get Involved with Reclaim Your Run
Stand with the 25% of women who are routinely sexually harassed while out running by heading out yourself for 25 minutes and posting about your run on Instagram using #reclaimyourrun, tagging @womenshealthuk and @runnersworlduk. You can share your distance, your time, a gorgeous view or a sweaty selfie – anything that expresses your support for Reclaim Your Run.
Right now, public sexual harassment isn’t punishable by law. We believe, to make running– and, indeed, public spaces generally – safe for women, this needs to change. That’s why we’re backing the Crime Not Compliment campaign from Our Streets Now and Plan International UK, which aims to do just that. To add your name to the campaign, get details on how to email your MP and find out more, visit plan-uk.org/crimenotcompliment.
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