There has been a lot written about the incomprehensible murder of Ashling Murphy over the last few days. It beggars belief that horrific incidents like this are happening with worrying regularity. Attacks against women by men increased during the various lockdown’s we have had due to covid. The majority of these we are not even aware of, the figures in the press are undoubtedly much lower than the true number of women being attacked by men, both in their own homes and outside of them.
There has been, for obvious reasons, a focus on the fact that Ashling was out for a run in daylight hours. It’s an every day activity for a lot of people after all. However, it should not matter what Ashling, or any other woman for that matter, was doing when she was attacked, be that out running, walking or whether they are in their own home.
Women’s’ lives right now feel dispensable, and yet we form more than 50 percent of society. There are, of course, many places we can lay blame; the press for the culture that has been created (bare in mind the Voyeurism Act was only passed in 2019 which made it illegal to ‘upskirt’; society (let’s not forget we are still fighting to have included in the same Act, the act of taking pictures of us breastfeeding); politicians (their behaviour and how they act and support women, or not). These discussions aren’t new they only happened a few months ago after the tragic murder of Sarah Everard. Yet here we are and it feels as if nothing has moved forward.
Ashling Murphy’s life being taken from her whilst she was out running has made me think about what I do and how safe I am. I’m a runner, obviously, and I’m female and I run on my own regularly. It’s not right that we should feel that we have to take extra precautions when we run, or doing anything for that fact!
When I run solo I make sure I run in well lit places if it’s dark. When running in the dark I wear a chest light, although I would argue that all runners should do this in the dark so that others can see you coming. I have bone conductor headphones so that I can hear what’s going on around me as well as what I’m listening to. Whilst I’m on Strava and my runs are public I don’t show the start and end of my runs to make it harder to know where I live.
However….I refuse to change what I’m doing. It’s my life and I am in charge of it. I will not have other people’s, men’s, behaviour dictate what I can and can’t do to keep myself safe. I am not the problem, the perpetrators are. Telling women how to protect themselves is not the solution to the problem. We are not the problem. The men who chose to commit these horrific acts are.
Sadly, it does not seem to matter what we are doing, if someone is going to attack us they are going to do it regardless of what we’re doing. That may not be a good way to think. But I’m not stopping doing something that brings me joy and improves my physical and mental health because other people cannot respect women.
In the words of #Running Punks – Don’t Harass Women. Change the Discourse.