I am not, nor have I ever been, much of a runner. However, when my partner volunteered me for a Thanksgiving 5K Race, I realized I had better figure it out. I’ve been working through a Couch to 5K program and decided last night would be my first attempt at a full 5K. I haven’t run this far since I moved several years ago (I know I know) so I don’t regularly run the trails near my house. Needing to get some extra miles last night, I decided to take a path that ran through the woods a bit further than I usually go.
I immediately felt unsafe. I immediately took out my headphones and started scanning my surroundings. I even pushed myself to run a little bit faster until I got to a place where the woods thinned out and I could see houses and lights. I felt so unsafe that I almost turned around.
Now, it could have been the podcast I was listening to (Believed, an NPR podcast about Dr. Larry Nassar’s years of abuse of young women–check it out). It could have been the area (our town had a murder on a running trail not far from there a couple of years before I moved out). It could have been just my natural hypervigilance from years of working at a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Crisis Center.
But whatever it was, the point is, I felt afraid to run by myself. I felt afraid enough that I took out my headphones and scanned my surroundings as I ran. I felt afraid enough that I almost gave up on my goal for that run.
And you know what? My partner (a cis white male runner) runs those trails almost everyday, almost always after dark and he NEVER feels that fear. He’s never had to wonder if they’ll find his body the next morning and blame him for what happened because he shouldn’t have been running alone at night.
I do. Those fears for my safety AND the fears that I’d be blamed if something happened to me run through my head every time I step out the door. And that’s not just anxiety. It’s part of the gig women and femme people seem to have been handed on the day we were born. And that’s not okay.
I should be able to run in peace, no matter my gender or race. I shouldn’t be afraid of being murdered or assaulted just because I’m female. I shouldn’t hold myself back from my goals because I wonder if it is safe enough to achieve them.
Whether it is running, receiving an education, landing that new job, taking up painting…whatever your goal might be, you deserve to achieve it without the fear of abuse and violence. That’s why places like Safe Passage are so necessary. We have to work to support survivors AND work to create a world where we can all live without fear.
We’re in for the long-haul. We hope you’ll join us!