5 Women Open Up About Being Sexually Harassed At The Gym

Going to the gym can be a great outlet to blow off steam, put you in a good mood, increase your energy levels and help you sleep at night. It can also be a great way to make new friends, crush fitness goals and improve your confidence. But the gym can also be a very daunting and intimidating place, and it can make you feel vulnerable. On top of that, it is an environment, like many others, that is prone to sexual harassment.
A study this year found that nearly 71% of women are being harassed at the gym on a regular basis, while 81% have changed their gym routine because they were being followed around. Fifty-four percent said they avoided certain areas in the gym because of harassment. The research by FitRated also found that more than 90% of women said they don't appreciate being stared at while exercising, nearly as many don't enjoy being flirted with and almost 80% of women don't enjoy being talked to while working out.
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Nearly 71% of women are being harassed at the gym on a regular basis, while 81% have changed their gym routine because they were being followed around.

For 27-year-old Yasmine, this is an experience she knows all too well. Back in August, Yasmine was exercising on the gym floor when she noticed a man sitting opposite her on one of the machines. He wasn't using the machine but was holding his phone balanced on his knee with the camera pointing right at her. "I was so terrified I didn't know what to do," she tells Refinery29. "I wanted to make sure he was filming me before I did anything." She said the man sat opposite her for five minutes before she eventually walked over to the water fountain to calm down. "I caught him looking over at me in the mirrors, so I walked back and he started pretending to use the machine. That's when I got up, collected my things and went into the changing room."
Yasmine said she reported him to gym staff but was too upset to stay in the gym while they spoke to him. "I rang back and found out that when the manager spoke to him, he seemed to know exactly what she was talking about but the video had been deleted and he denied filming me," she says. "They let him stay in the gym until I broke down in tears and said I didn't want to come back." Yasmine said she didn't go to the gym for a month and a half. She then returned only to find that the man had returned, too. "I reported him again and once again he was removed but I was told the gym could not ban him as there was no proof. I've not been back to that gym since."
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I caught him looking over at me in the mirrors, so I walked back and he started pretending to use the machine. That's when I got up, collected my things and went into the changing room.

Yasmine
Yasmine, who lives in London, says the experience made her feel weird because she thought she would feel protected in the gym. "I lived near to this gym so the threat seemed worse. The gym is a vulnerable place to be, it's one thing being checked out by guys and not being able to do anything about their blatant staring but this was another level." She said she has visited another gym since but only feels safe when accompanied by her PT.
Krissy, 34, had a similar experience. "I was stretching out on a treadmill and a guy I knew came out of the changing room and slapped me on my butt cheek," she tells Refinery29. "I was like no, you're never entitled to put your hand on me, ever. It took him an hour to get over himself and apologise." She didn't report the incident through fear of the man's temper. Krissy added that there have been numerous times when she has laughed off things that could have qualified as sexual harassment.
She said: "Men have strategically placed themselves where they could watch me squat, they have commented on my physique, and even got on the treadmill right next to mine despite the rest of them not being used."
Elena, 25, said a man in the gym went so far as grabbing her body. She tells Refinery29: "There is a trainer at the gym who always stares at me. He's massive and overbearing and I actively avoid him because he intimidates me. When he first started following me around the gym, I tried my best to ignore it.
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"Then he started making comments and noises at me when I walked past – nothing too dirty but enough to make me feel uncomfortable."

I was stretching out on a treadmill and a guy I knew came out of the changing room and slapped me on my butt cheek.

Krissy
Things soon got worse after the trainer followed her and her friend into one of the training rooms. "He put on some music and insisted I danced with him and was grabbing my hips, while his friend – who has also said inappropriate things in the past – tried to make my friend dance with him," she tells Refinery29. "The trainer kept telling me the stuff he would do to me and I told him to fuck off.
"I managed to break out of his grasp on my hips and my friend and I left the room. I keep avoiding him but he always lingers in my space. When I'm training he stands behind me and watches me, knowing I can see him in the mirrors."
Elena said she didn't report the incident because she didn't want to put herself through making herself even more uncomfortable.

I felt like I was being watched when I was lifting weights and when I was on the rowing machine or treadmill. The man would use the machine next to me, instead of all the other ones that were free. I ended up quitting my membership and changing gyms.

Tamsin
"I had this one boy follow me around the gym," 25-year-old Tamsin tells Refinery29. "At first I thought he just wanted to use the same things I was using and it was a coincidence, but after a few separate times, I realised it was more than that. I felt like I was being watched when I was lifting weights and when I was on the rowing machine or treadmill. The man would use the machine next to me, instead of all the other ones that were free. I ended up quitting my membership and changing gyms."
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Bliss, 25, has been harassed in the gym numerous times. "There is one particular incident that comes to mind," she says. "I just finished working out and went to refill my water bottle at the filter. There was a muscly man already there watching me and smirking. He then said, 'Smile babygirl, why is your face so serious, or I'll give you something to smile about' Yikes. I immediately was uncomfortable and too embarrassed to say anything.

Men don't make the gym a safe space.

Bliss
"He then started sizing me up and down and making sexual noises like 'mmm' until I hurriedly walked into the women's changing room without a filled water bottle. Some men don't make the gym a safe space."
Some of the UK's largest gyms have club rules in place which prohibit any kind of inappropriate behaviour. Virgin Active, for example, has rules that state members should not "molest, or harass other members, guests, visitors, or members of staff."
PureGym said it is tackling the issue of intimidation and sexual harassment by redesigning gym floors to improve visibility and providing additional lighting. It has also introduced female-only areas in some of its gyms.

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