It’s taken me a little time to process and compartmentalize the implications of some tragic incidents that have occurred in the past few weeks. For those of you who are unaware, there have been a couple of brutal and hard-to-bear murders of young women who were out on a standard run, on a normal day. Karina Vetrano was a Queens born 30-year old avid runner who loved to travel and recently did a Spartan Race at Citi Field. On a Tuesday evening, she didn’t come home from her run. Her father found her body in a park with signs of strangulation and sexual assault. She was a writer and according to her Instagram traveled all over the world. 27 year old Vanessa Marcotte went out on a Sunday afternoon jog at her mother’s house in Princeton, MA, never to return to New York City where she worked for Google. Police K-9 units found her body with signs of burns and sexual assault about 7 hours after she left for that innocent jog down the road. These 2 murders happened within one week of each other.
Instead of reading about how awful these tragedies were, I was amazed, shocked and surprised to see that people out there were criticizing the girls that were attacked.
They dressed too provocatively.
They were running alone.
They were listening to music.
They were running in an “unsafe” area.
They were asking for it.
Really? These are the comments? Why are the victims being blamed for such senseless and unimaginable acts? These people are giving the murderers an excuse and a reason. They’re actually justifying it! It’s infuriating.
Have any of you ever run on a 95 degree day with at least 80% humidity? Do any of you work your ass off (literally) in the gym or road on a daily basis? I have some curves, I have some abs and I have some pretty defined leg muscles. It’s FAR from perfect and I wouldn’t consider it “sexy”, but I’m proud of my body. I’ve worked incredibly hard and put in countless hours to have it. So why should I have to cover up when I’m about to leave on one of those brutally hot runs? Why is it not okay for me to wear just a sports bra and compression shorts in order to stay cool? Why can men wear no shirts and just short shorts and not be criticized? Why is what I wear out on a run anybody’s business but mine? Why do I have to watch men stare as I walk by or make comments as I’m sprinting past them? So I have to wear sweatpants and a T-shirt when I run? Do I have to almost pass out from heat exhaustion?
The objectification of women has hit a new and alarming level. Because a girl looked “sexy”, she deserved to be brutally raped and murdered? Because she was trying to get in a couple of extra miles, she deserved to be dragged into the brush? Because she was confident in herself she deserved this fate?
Saying that a girl is “asking for it” is quite possibly the hardest thing for me to hear. I run because I love running, but I also run for what it’s done to my body. I feel good and I enjoy wearing crop tops and short shorts or form fitting skirts. I’ve worked hard for it. That doesn’t mean that I’m looking for comments as I walk down the street or stares when I run into Walgreens for a coconut water. That doesn’t mean I want to constantly watch my back. Allowing and condoning this behavior is perpetuating the problem. Let’s stop victim blaming. Stop trying to take confident females and forcing them into a shell. Don’t allow the words “whore” or “slut” to come out of your mouth. Don’t tell me I can’t wear certain workout clothes because that will give an attacker an “acceptable” excuse. Don’t tell me I can’t run by myself or listen to the music I want to listen to. I don’t want to hear it. Don’t tell me that men can’t control themselves when an attractive girl runs by. Isn’t that what the porn industry is for? What I want to hear is that this won’t happen again. What I want to hear is that these criminals had no excuse. What I want to hear is sympathy and compassion, not blame towards the victims. What I want is confidence to be accepted, not shamed and not targeted.
I always leave the house with my headphones in, phone on my arm and water bottle in hand. Do I need to go out and buy some mace? Do I have to run with a belt every time and keep an illegal taser in there? Why do I have to think about these things? I’m out there running countless miles and now I have to worry about this activity I’m passionate about causing me harm? It’s ridiculous and I’m not sure how to stop it. What I am sure of is that we can stop with the victim blaming. People will just chalk it up to the fact that this is the world we live in and it’s just the way things are. Well I’m not accepting that anymore. I don’t want to live and run in fear. I want to be confident without being ashamed. I want to wear my cute crop tops and skirts. I want to wear my sports bra and shorts out on a run in the sweltering heat. I want to run alone. And I don’t want to apologize for it. Let’s work together to make this world a safer place for women to express themselves because this whore/slut/tramp world is getting really old.
I’m not sitting here and saying that taking precautions to remain safe should not be done. You should still make sure you’re running in a well lit and populated area. Maybe turn down the headphones. Maybe don’t run late night. However, EVERYBODY needs to recognize that you can’t always run in the ideal conditions. That doesn’t mean that it’s the runners fault if something happens. So, STOP BLAMING THE VICTIM. I’m about to head out for a 5 mile run tonight when I get home from work. It’s 90 degrees, feels like 95 and 70% humidity. I’m wearing what I have on in the attached picture to this article. Is that a problem? Should I throw on some sweatpants, maybe a sweatshirt? Maybe the critics would prefer I pass out from heat exhaustion? STOP BLAMING THE VICTIM. Maybe the critics would tell me I should go to the gym instead of running outside and hurt my training? STOP BLAMING THE VICTIM. Maybe the critics will say I should stop running all together. That I should let the evil people in the world take away something that I love. STOP BLAMING THE VICTIM. I’m NOT asking for it. She’s NOT asking for it. It shouldn’t happen.