My Self Defence Panic

In the past few weeks, the universe has been telling me to take up arms. Or at least grow some guns. I’m mixing metaphors here. Let me explain.

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The other night I was out in London when a girl rushed up to my friends and I, yelling and crying in coherently. She had bloody knuckles and arms, and we were frankly quite scared of her. We eventually figured out that she’d been thrown from a (moving?) car by a guy she knew. She was now alone in Peckham at 3am, with no battery on her phone. To cut a long story short, we helped her out, got her home safely, and then called an Uber for ourselves.

Surreal end to a night out, or so I thought.

But then when I got home into my apartment building, I found a paramedic and a police officer in the foyer. Strewn around them was gauze, bandages and latex gloves, all covered in blood. They were packing a girl’s clothes into an evidence bag. I had encountered, it was explained, the aftermath of an assault. A girl had been attacked somewhere nearby, and had thankfully made it back to the building where help was called. Whilst they didn’t tell me anything else, it was clear this girl had taken a pretty brutal beating.

I went to bed that night feeling a little uneasy. Two girls in one night? Had that really happened? It wasn’t till the following week however, that I started to get worried. I was out running, and got catcalled twice (in The City, by nice-looking men in suits). Although the full force of City Runners was scattered along our standard Tuesday night loop, I was at that moment alone. I just sped up.

Seriously?!
Seriously?!

And finally, this week there’s been a sex attacker on the loose in Clapham, my old stomping ground. I used to run there in the dark, alone, all the time. And I felt perfectly safe- Clapham is one of the most gentrified areas in London. So if Clapham’s not safe, I don’t know where is.

It’s really hit me how vulnerable I am as a female, especially a runner. And when you take into account my small build, I could be easily overpowered.I’m going to run more during the day, and find a buddy for evening miles. I may even take self defence classes.

(But really? Should I really have to do this?! I mean seriously?? It’s 2015 for Christ’s sake, we should have sorted this shit out.)

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#whyineedfeminism

So my question is: what safety precautions do you take as a (female) runner? Or just in general, now the nights are drawing in?

I’d really appreciate your thoughts! It’s an entirely un-fun issue to discuss, but as a female runner, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Lots of love,

Pippa

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13 thoughts on “My Self Defence Panic

  1. I’ve been feeling the same fear lately, especially now that it’s getting dark more often. Every time I hear about one of these incidents, it hits home a little more as I realize how easily, but for the grace of God, it could have been me. I also wonder if there is really a huge uptick in attacks or if it just seems like there is because we hear about it more often due to the internet. When I started running I trained in the winter and I ran through the dark evenings, I never felt scared. Now I’m really worried about it. Nothing has changed since then, other than the fact that I’ve read more of these news stories.

    Anyway, my best strategy is that I always run on the busy main roads where I live. If it’s dark I don’t go anywhere near parks, trails, or super quiet residential areas. And I run early in the evening when businesses are open and there is still a lot of traffic and people out and about. There is no 100% foolproof way to stay safe, but I figure a perp would have to be pretty darn ballsy (or stupid) to attack me on a busy street with lots of potential witnesses.

    I’m also going to be doing a lot of my running indoors at the gym this winter. I hate to let fear dictate my life and again, nothing is 100%…but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel relieved and a little bit safer (although I was planning to hit the gym more anyway, for other reasons).

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    1. Thanks, all great ideas! I think sticking to main roads or with my club is a good option. I was just so shocked on Tuesday when I was in the middle of London, surrounded by tourists, and these City boys thought it was appropriate to catcall me! I even gave them a look of complete confusion because it was like really?!

      I may have to suck it up and take to the dreadmill when the nights really start to draw in. I’d rather be safe! Luckily now I’m self-employed I have more time during the day so I can go for lunchtime runs, but still the treadmill is a good option!

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      1. You can likely outrun them. It’s also stastically less likely for a running female-bodied person to be attacked than a “weak,” walking one, but it’s good to have some self-defense training for any situation.

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  2. It’s a shame this is still something we have to worry about; and there really isn’t an equivalent for men and that makes it even scarier somehow. Last Thursday our running group ran 6 miles of hills and it got dark before we were even halfway through, and our path took us through a woodsy area that is known to be a haven for the homeless. Normally our group gets pretty spread out along our route, but I noticed that we stayed in two clusters that night. I think safety in numbers is the way to go, and we were all carrying some sort of light that could have been used to defend ourselves had we needed to. If you must run alone, make sure someone knows where you are and when you’re supposed to be home! I have a cousin who lives in a small city in Vermont and she has been harassed as she walks to and from work; one bozo even motioned for her to take her earphones out so that he could say something lewd to her. Can you imagine? We found this video appropriate, maybe you will too: http://www.upworthy.com/think-catcalls-are-compliments-a-music-video-flips-the-script-to-show-why-thats-not-the-case?c=ufb1

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    1. Ugh I get that with the earphones! I hate that! It drives me absolutely crazy. Now I have a great resting bitch face, and also a good look of confusion when a man is staring at me, like “is there something i can help you with?” – the sad thing is though most of the time I wouldn’t dare to say anything back for fear of getting beaten up! I think you’re entirely right about safety in numbers, I should definitely stick with my group. Thank god for running clubs!

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  3. One piece of advice I once got was not to worry about being politically correct. Gender, race, ethnic background…if you are running towards someone or run by someone who worries you, your main priority should be your safety and not worrying about offending someone. If you feel uncomfortable/worried, get out of there.
    I’m always aware of how close I am to others and regardless of who it is if I’m running towards someone I usually try to keep as much distance between us a possible.

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