Sexual Harassment in Gyms: What We Should Do if it Happens to Us

August 1, 2019


Going into a gym, no matter what level of strength or what shape you are in, can be pretty daunting. There is new equipment to learn, there are new staff members to develop relationships with, and worst of all, there are jerks.


Unfortunately, gyms have become some weird sort of grounds where (mostly) men feel as if they can hit on women at will. Personally, I have worked at gyms for years, andI have seen countless women make complaints about certain members or staff. Due to weird policies, the perpetrators do not often lose their positions of power.


No matter what the gym, or the policy, men are generally in power. As women, we are put in a difficult position where we may not be listened to when we make complaints about them. We might be told to change our workout routines or the times we come to work out. But sometimes even when we change our entire schedule, we find that the men have changed theirs, too, so they can continue to “pursue” us. So the question remains: What do we do?


If you find yourself being hit on at the gym, first make your displeasure known. Make sure you tell the perpetrator you are not interested. Do it loudly. Sometimes, other gym members will say something to the perpetrator if they recognize someone is uncomfortable. I have witnessed countless members coming to defend one against another.


If the harasser does not stop after you tell them to leave you alone, go to the front desk. Make a complaint. Make sure the gym knows you are uncomfortable. If they do not do anything to protect you and if you are financially able to, cancel your membership and find another gym. Toxic gym policies will not change, even if they should.


If you cannot cancel your membership, make sure you make it known that you are uncomfortable. It is not easy to go forward and make complaints, but if a member is harassing you, chances are they are harassing others. 


Keep yourself safe. If the gym will not do anything to cancel their membership or speak with the harasser, start asking them to walk you to your car. The more vocal you are about your discomfort, the more likely they are to make a change.


If they will not, ask to speak to a manager. Make complaints daily. As cliche as it is, the squeaky wheel gets the grease and the more you complain about the offender, the more likely the gym staff are to do something.


And do not underestimate the power of social media. If your gym will not do anything to help you, do not be afraid to put it on Facebook. It may make you feel uncomfortable and it may be scary, but gyms make a lot of money through referrals, so if one female member announces publicly that their gym is not a safe place for women to work out, they are more likely to either do something about the harasser or create policies to prevent behaviors like theirs from continuing.


It is not up to you to change the gym, but it sometimes is up to you to keep yourself safe from sexual harassers.That does not mean, however, that you should ever have to change your behavior, outfit, or workout regimen because of what someone is doing to you. There are other steps you can take.


Always remember: the gym is meant to be a healthy space that allows everyone to improve themselves. Do not let anyone take that from you.


Elizabeth Coleman is a passionate writer from Massachusetts. She is twenty three years old and is currently working on her MS from Nova Southeastern University in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. She graduated last year from Keene State College with two BAs, one in Holocaust and Genocide Studies with a minor in history and the other in Criminal Justice Studies. Elizabeth loves to read, but her all time favorite book would have to be "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. In five years, Elizabeth hopes to be investigating extremism and hate groups in the United States. Elizabeth steps up for justice, equality, and making the world a bit better for everyone.

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