Catcalling Wildcats: How Street Harassment Affects our Female Runners

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Catcalling Wildcats: How Street Harassment Affects our Female Runners

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  43 percent of women have been harassed while going on their morning or night time runs. This number — from a CNN survey — startled plenty of male readers, but women across the country were surprised that the number wasn’t higher.

  One of the most terrifying cases of female runner harassment occurred in July of 2018. Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old student at the University of Iowa, was on her nighttime jog when 24-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera began following her in his car. Eventually, he parked and began jogging alongside Tibbetts. When Tibbetts threatened to call the police, Rivera got violent. According to charging documents, Rivera then “blocked his memory,” which is “what he does when he gets angry.” Tibbetts was missing for five weeks until Rivera brought police to where he had left her body.

  The murder of Mollie Tibbetts raised concerns involving the safety of female runners. As long as men cannot take no for an answer, women are in danger.

  54 percent of women have felt afraid while on their runs or preparing to leave their houses. “What if something were to happen to me?” This thought should not cross the mind of someone simply trying to get their daily exercise in.

  Here at West Ranch High School, the track team runs through Santa Clarita every single day — from 4-7 p.m. on weekdays and at 7 a.m. on weekends. According to Malone Erickson, a junior, members of the girl’s track team have been catcalled.

  Erickson told The Paw Print, “One time in particular, it was a Sunday and we were on a long run. Some guys in a car were turning across the street from where we were and they slowed down, rolled down their windows, honked their horns, called out something I can’t remember, and whistled. Then they just drove away.”

  At the end of the interview, Erickson said, “This rarely happens. I would say probably two to three times a month.”

  Catcalling should never happen. Two to three times a month does not seem “rare,” but women are so used to constant harassment that this number seems like nothing. Teenage girls have been exposed to so much catcalling in their everyday lives that it seems like a normality. It’s been happening so much and for so long that it is swept under the rug, regarded as something that cannot be avoided.

  Sarah Soltani, the track and field coach here at West Ranch High School, told The Paw Print about the team’s experience with catcalling: “For instance, I train the distance runners. We have to go on runs out onto the streets because they go for miles on end. Usually the girls get catcalled by people driving by. They get honked at, people will yell things, and so on. It’s been happening even when I was younger, and it’s continued.”

  Precautions have been taken in order to keep the team as safe as possible. Soltani said, “I can’t control what other people say. The only thing we can control is how we react. My coaches always told me to not mind it and just keep running. Be aware of your surroundings. I have a rule here where you can’t run alone to prevent anything serious from happening.”

  Male runners have their own thoughts and opinions on catcalling. Matthew Linares, a junior, is a runner at Valencia High School. He told The Paw Print, “I’ve never been catcalled while running, and I haven’t noticed or seen catcalling occur, but I’m sure there is some lurking around. Personally, I feel it’s not right and just shows how immature people can be or become.”

  25 percent of men have been catcalled, according to Stop Street Harassment. This number is significantly lower than the percentage of women who have dealt with street harassment (43% while on runs, 81% during regular activities). Men simply do not experience catcalling as often as women do, and therefore it isn’t as prevalent in reference to the male population.

  In a study done by the International Men and Gender Equality survey, it was discovered that 90 percent of men who have catcalled women say they did it “for fun.”

  “I was just having fun,” is not a valid excuse to harass women who are simply trying to exercise. It also does not give men a reason to catcall young girls who are trying to train for track and field. While it may be “fun” for the harasser, catcalling has serious psychological effects on the victim.

  According to research done by Emma Rooney of NYU Steinhardt, being harassed can lead to self-conscious body monitoring, which can in turn lead to shame, anxiety and depression. The fear of being harassed can eat away at a person for when it happens once, it is always in the back of their mind and can cause women to constantly worry that it could happen again. Fear will always reside in the mind of someone who has been harassed, and experiencing harassment at a young age means that this fear will exist for most of the person’s life.

  Female runner harassment has been a global issue for decades, and while preventive measures can be taken to keep runners safe, safety will always be threatened as long as catcalling exists. The well-being of girls should not be threatened simply because men want to have a little “fun.”