Tag Archives: harassment

Exercise and harassment

4 Sep

A month ago I was verbally harassed at my local swimming pool.

I arrived on Monday 10th August at about 6.15am, signed in, and went to get changed for my swim.

I left the changing room in my swimming costume and walked the short corridor to the pool. In this corridor there are group changing rooms and disabled changing rooms.  There is also a cleaning cupboard and most mornings when I am there, there are at least two cleaners hanging around.

Like I say, it’s a short corridor and takes less than 30 seconds for me to walk. I don’t usually carry a towel. 9.5 times out of 10 I wear a full one piece. (Not that it matters what I wear because a public pool is a safe space and what a woman wears should never be cause for harassment).

For a bit of background this is what I have noticed every time I walk this 30 second corridor. The cleaners stare at me. Blatently stare at me. Look me up and down and ocassionally whisper to each other about me. It makes me very uncomfortable so much so that on the morning of the 10th August as I walked from the changing room to the pool I had to pysch myself up and tell myself to just keep my head down. Try not to encourage them I remember saying to myself.

As I walked through the corridor one of the guys walked very closely past me and whispered in my ear “wow”. Such a tiny word but never in my life has this word given me such sick feelings.

As he said that I turned and at the back his head I said something like “That’s so inappropriate”.  I didn’t really really know what to do, so I just went and did my swim.

The whole time I was in the pool I got more and more angry. I was sick of this crap. I remember thinking I should wear a different costume when i swim or have covered up using a towel, and then asking myself is this how they behave with all women who use the pool? Does this guy regularly whisper in the ears of women as they walk to the pool?

By the time I got out I knew I had to say something and make a complaint. I felt unsafe in what should be a safe space.

What I’m wearing doesn’t matter. What matters is we are in a world where some women struggle to get into fitness and the behaviour of men is one of the reasons why. As a runner I experience catcalling. I read stories of women who suffer harassment during exercise which makes them stop.

If the behaviour of the cleaner and his mates wasn’t stopped then my conscience wouldn’t be clear and I couldnt be sure that other women wouldn’t also be affected by this. Also what is this escalated, what if next time the words got worse or he tried to touch me. He clearly has no boundaries.

I approached the front desk on my way out and asked the Receptionist if there was someone I could speak to about the cleaners. She gave me a comments and complaints form and said I needed to complete that. I felt dismissed. She didn’t ask any questions but I was to stressed to say anything more so I took the form and left.

I actually had no plans to ever go back to the pool so at lunch time in the office I filled in their online complaints form.

This is what I wrote:

Activity: Swimming
Centre: GMLC
Date: 2015/8/10
Time: 8:00am

Feedback type: complaint
Feedback:
I visited the centre this morning and arrived at 6.14am to swim. I have been using the pool 2-3 times a week for the past month around the same time.

My complaint is about the cleaners who are around the changing room area at that time. Usually as I walk from the changing room to the pool I can feel them staring and discussing me but I can’t hear what they are saying. This morning, as well as the usual staring as i walked into the changing room, when I left the changing room to get to the pool, one of the cleaners felt it was appropriate to whisper “wow” at me as I walked past. This is disgusting behaviour, I don’t come to the pool to be leered at and commented on. I come there to exercise. The cleaners need to learn some restraint. Is this how they behave to all women who use the pool. It makes me extremely uncomfortable and it is disgusting behaviour. I don’t want to be stared at or commented on. Really upset about this, women should not have to worry about the men working in the centre hitting on them, staring at them and commenting on them.

I do not know the name of the cleaner but to be honest all of them have pretty sleezy behaviour every time I come in.

Many thanks

Leeanne Graham

The website said I would get a reply within 7 working days.

On the 5th working day I went swimming in the evening with a friend. By this point I felt defiant. I’ll  be damned if I let this guy or any guy stop me from reaching my goals.  I asked the Receptionist (a different one) if my complaint had been received.  She didn’t know and would ask a manager to look into it. She didn’t ask what my complaint was about.

On the 8th working day I went for my first morning swim since the 10th August. On my way in I asked yet another member of staff working on reception if my complaint was being looked at. This man was the first person to ask me the exact nature of my complaint. He said he didn’t know about my complaint but if anything like that happened again I should come and find him. 

On the 19th August I took to twitter.

image

image

I only got a reply once friends and twitter followers started applying pressure.

Finally late that afternoon the General Manager gave me a call. He hadn’t received my complaint so I went through it on the phone.
He told me that my complaint should have been escalated to management as soon as I mentioned it to the first Receptionist. He also mentioned that the cleaners shouldn’t even be in that pary of the building at that time of day, since they should hace finished there. He promised me it would be looked into and investigated. 

Since then I’ve had numerous emails with the management staff. Although there is CCTV in that part of the building at the time I walked through it was currently rotated to a different part of the corridor.

This morning, 4th September I met with the GM and a manager from the cleaning contracting company. I was asked to look at some photos to see if I could pick the guy out. I knew I wouldn’t be able to having only really seen the back of his head (and I told  them this) but I gave it my best shot. They compared the guy I thought it was to what CCTV they did have and it looks like it wasn’t him. It might have been one of the others or someone covering.

I am now waiting to hear what will happen when all four cleaners meet with HR next week.

I’m sharing this post because I think it is so important for women to be safe whilst exercising. To not have to worry if walking to the pool, or running outside or inside is going to get you unwanted comments and looks.

Harassment for women who exercise is a very real thing and it’s important we speak out about it. I hope my issue is resolved so I can swim confidently in the mornings again. I miss my morning routine but I just don’t feel comfortable using that pool before work any more.

As soon as I have an update on the investigation I’ll  let you all know.

X

Advertisements