I went for a run after dinner tonight. It was a beautiful night. The moon was full and I wanted to unwind after a long week of work. I was responsible. I wore a bright, white vest so cars could see me. I took my big dog with me so I wouldn’t be alone. And I carried my cell phone and a bag of dog sh*t in case I ran into trouble on the road. That’s what it takes for me to feel safe running at night.
About one mile into the run, a car full of young men in their teens or early 20s drove by me. One of the passengers leaned out of the car window and screamed at me. He said he wanted to shove something up my ass. I didn’t catch what object he wanted to use. It scared me. But it has happened before and I had my dog, my phone and my goody bag with me, so I was pretty confident I would be okay. Still, I spent the next mile constantly looking over my shoulder (which caused me to twist my knee).
I decided to shorten my route to avoid a dark patch of road. But as I approached my house after just two miles, I felt good and wanted to keep going. I decided I would keep running and loop around the neighborhood. And then, a car full of boys drove by me and one of the passengers leaned out the window and screamed at me. I went straight home.
I walked in the door far less relaxed than I had been when I set out. In fact, I was furious. Why is it, I wondered, that as a woman jogging alone at night, it is my responsibility to bring my phone and my dog, check over my shoulder regularly, and plan my route based on street lamps, and yet, these young men feel no responsibility for not harassing me or behaving civilly?
If something had happened to me during my run – if I had been attacked – and the incident made the paper, do you think most people reading the story would have first thought, “Why do those men behave that way?” Or would their first thought have been, “Why was that woman running alone at night?”