‘I was scared to go back’: Women who go to the gym open up about sexual assaults by men

What makes women feel unsafe in the gym? Well, an unwanted look, being harassed or sexually assaulted. Addressing the harassment, one of the gym goers recalled how she was assaulted while using a treadmill in the gym. Charlotte Gordon, a 44-year-old married mother who works in mental health education, described how a man came up behind her, got on the treadmill and kissed her on the shoulder saying, “Hello !” “I was absolutely stunned. I didn’t know what to do or say. He left while I looked around to see if anyone else had seen what had happened – but it was hard to tell. say. I didn’t quite believe it,” she explained.

Gordon said: “I can say a ‘hello’ or a ‘how are you? but really, I want to be left alone. This man, 20 years my senior, often came to discuss. He even sat next to me while I practiced and made little comments. Other women in the gym had gone through the same thing with him and we tried to laugh it off, but it was boring. I started wearing my headphones and always quickly cut off conversations with him. He had been a little scary with me in the past, previously leaned in to greet me with a kiss, but I quickly backed off.” Speaking in more detail about sexual harassment, she added, “Jump up behind me and kiss me on the shoulder crossed a line. I was scared to go back to the gym because I didn’t want him to do it again,” according to DailyMail.

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“Who do these men think they are?

“I told my husband and he actually said I had to do something to make this man think he could do this,” Gordon said, who then recounted, “I was so upset. angry and we argued a bit. I knew I had done nothing wrong, but suddenly I felt ashamed. It was my husband who told me to call the gym. I phoned and I told the manager what time it happened. He watched the video footage while we were still on the phone. I heard the manager say, ‘Oh no, it’s not [ok]. I was so glad he said that – I felt vindicated. The principal told me he would banish the man from the gym. My husband was delighted too. He could see I was shaken by it.”

Gordon then added, “I discovered quite a few women who were all relieved when he was banned. Who do these men think they are? They can’t walk into gyms and start touching women. I don’t don’t know why we didn’t. I think we could do anything about it as a collective. If my husband hadn’t pushed me to say something, I probably would have changed gyms. to stop the problem.

“He touched me in a really inappropriate way”

Natalee Barnett, a fitness influencer with over a million followers on TikTok, was sexually assaulted at her local gym five years ago. She was 18 at the time. Barnett, who is now 23, said: “I was sitting in front of the mirrors next to a man who used to go to the gym, who I had known for a while, and we were talking. As I lay down on one of the benches he touched me in a really inappropriate way. I don’t want to give exact details because it’s too upsetting. It was so quick that at first I wondered if it was product. I couldn’t believe a man would do such a thing for a woman in a public space. I jumped to my feet, not saying a word and tripped. I was in shock. He didn’t “Had never done anything to make me suspect he would behave like this. I have no idea why he thought he could get away with it. I didn’t tell any of my family members.” I was devastated and understood what had happened. I have brothers and I knew that if they found out they would be very angry. She added: “I haven’t been back there for Several weeks. Luckily, I was leaving for college soon, so I quit. But I’ll never forget how vulnerable I felt.”

Barnett also conducted an investigation through her Instagram account and received over 300 messages from women and girls describing what had happened to them. She said: “I’ve had girls as young as 16 who said men slapped them on the buttocks. One woman told me that while she was training at four legs a man walked up to her and said something obscene Women just want to be able to go to the gym in peace and work out Most men just want to work out too and we leave alone. But there are some who don’t understand gym etiquette and think they can assault or film women and that’s what we need to try to stop.”

Why do some men think it’s okay to act like that?

Commenting on this, psychologist Dr Audrey Tang said, as reported by DailyMail, “There is a lot of research to show that testosterone – the main sex hormone in men – increases in both men and women when they exercise. bodybuilding and it can increase feelings of aggression or rage. Of course, this is by no means an excuse, but it could explain why some men behave more intimidatingly at the gym. It is also appropriate to note that men behave very differently in front of women than they do in front of other men, often trying to impress them rather than focusing on their own workouts.”

‘Report them’

Martha Whitehead, a lawyer from Olliers, explained: “Women often feel vulnerable to unwanted attention from men, especially in situations such as exercise, where men may interrupt, interfere or disturb them. calling them, whistling or commenting on their body or activity.Some men follow women, refuse to give way to faster runners or swimmers, taunt them by interfering with equipment, photographing them, touching or sexually assaulting them.”When I post about women-only gyms, I get messages from all over the world saying, ‘Open one here!’ because women want to train in a place where they don’t feel threatened or harassed,” Barnett said. While personal trainer Sam McGowan, founder of The Strong AF Club, a fitness community aimed at helping women get fitter, said: “It’s not for female gym members to fight against sexual harassment. Staff, organizations and others who spot this kind of behavior should be the ones to call it out and not let it happen. But any woman who feels uncomfortable because of another member should always know that he is perfectly within his right to report it.

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