Police force tells women not to exercise on their own

Danielle Fowler
Freelance Writer
A police campaign has warned women against running alone in public [Photo: Getty]

The Avon and Somerset police force is offering tips to female joggers who experience sexual harassment and abuse while exercising in public.

The #JogOn campaign – a collaboration between the police and Bristol Zero Tolerance – hopes to enable women to feel more confident while running in their local area.

According to the newly-launched project, a large number of female joggers fall victim to derogatory comments from body-shaming to sexist jibes.

One anonymous runner told campaigners: “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.”

Marie, a run leader in Hengrove, added: “The most hurtful comments have to be to our larger runners. It’s disgusting and really knocks their confidence.”

In order to combat the abuse, Bristol Zero Tolerance has introduced a toolkit for women on how to handle street harassment while exercising in public.

One of the recommendations includes running as part of a group.

According to the campaign, the aim is to ensure that you have a close support network nearby and don’t feel the need to run with headphones – which can deter threatening behaviour.

The toolkit also advises women “to be alert but not worried” while out and about. If an incident occurs, then female joggers are advised to take note of any distinguishing features such as a company name or vehicle type.

The police also reminds women that taking photographs is legal if a crime has taken place.

When an incident of catcalling or heckling occurs, the campaign recommends remaining an ‘observer’, as giving a response may further escalate the situation.

Police are warning women not to respond to catcalling [Photo: Getty]

“Women should feel empowered to respond to harassment (if they feel safe to) to show that this behaviour is not acceptable or ‘normal’, Charlotte Gage from Bristol Zero Tolerance said.

“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’.”

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens added: “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.”

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