The recent Safe Outside survey of sexual harassment and assault in climbing shows that men are both vicitimizers and sometimes victims. It’s time we accepted that men need to be proactive in making a big change in the industry.
Over the summer, Elevation Outdoors took part in a smart, comprehensive, well-executed survey of sexual harassment and assault (SHSA) in climbing. Conducted by MIT-trained data scientist Charlie Lieu and University of Colorado-Denver professor and Department of Justice veteran Dr. Callie Rennison, the survey represented an unprecedented coming together of the community to determine the scope of the problem. With a media effort spearheaded by Alpinist editor Katie Ives, the survey went out through partners including the American Alpine Club, Climbing, SNEWS, Adventure Journal, Outdoor Retailer magazine…all told, over 40 organizations and countless individuals around the world took part. It sent a message that we don’t want anyone to be harassed or hurt when they are simply out living life to the fullest and enjoying the democratic beauty of the mountains, the rock and the wild. But it also sent out a message that we want to understand the problem.
The survey was a massive success. Over 5,000 people responded, men and women. (Go to the Safe Outside page—americanalpineclub.org/safeoutside—to learn more about the survey results.) But it was sad to find out that so many had been harassed and assaulted while climbing. Sad to learn that, for example, that 54 percent of women said they changed the way they climbed after experiencing sexual harassment and/or assault.
It was also important as a man to get this information. Too often men react negatively to any informaton about the harassment women and minorities experience. Worse, they shut off at times when faced with the facts. But the survey was done so thoughtfully and so scientifically that it was hard to ignore. And the survey included men as victims of sexual harassment and assault (16 percent of men surveyed reported some form of SHSA during climbing activities). Now, men should not pay more attention just because they are victims. But men need to know that women who are speaking out about instances of harassment and assault are not trying to attack them simply for being men. So many men, me included, simply need to stop and listen. And we need to change the way we act.
We need to remember that, most often, men are the perpetrators of sexaul harassment and assault. It’s our problem. So if we don’t want to get upset about being faced with these sad facts, we need to do something to stop them. We need to speak out if we see harassment taking place. We need to listen and rethink even small actions that may be hurtful such as dirty jokes or off-color climbing route names. We need to stand up and practice the strength of love.