NO, THERE'S NOT A "CRIME WAVE" AFFECTING RUNNERS ON THE SCHUYLKILL RIVER TRAIL. THERE'S A WOMEN'S RIGHTS PROBLEM HAPPENING ACROSS THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.
By now you've probably noticed the weather getting nicer. People are itching to explore get outside after months of winter, early sunsets, and drab weather. Just like clockwork, people went out to enjoy the most popular urban trail in America, and once again reports of harassment and sexual assault have begun to pop up.
Based on the headline news reports on ABC, NBC, FOX, and more local news stations, one would be led to believe that the Schuylkill River Trail is a hotbed for crime, marred by renegade "teens on bikes" wrecking havoc on those who dare lay foot or tire on the pavement. Flash phrases like "outbreak" and "crime wave" might have you think that. In reality, a quick 10 minutes on the City of Philadelphia's Crime Mapper tells a different story.
Granted, this is merely one part of a very complex picture (weather, population density, etc all factor into it), and only includes Part 1 crimes. We took the time to toy around with this mapper, and found that there was roughly the same amount of crime in ONE CITY BLOCK as the entire span of the Schuylkill River Trail from South Street to Lincoln Drive.
So no, the SRT is actually relatively safe. However...
The majority of reports (a large number of which were sourced via social media) centered around teens on bikes smacking women on the behind. This is sexual assault, plain and simple. Why are these reports happening on social media vs. being reported with the police? Even after combing through a dizzying database of all Part 1 and Part 2 crimes since 2006, the numbers don't add up. If these assaults are happening, they are not being accounted for. Furthermore, in the last year police have increased patrols (adding a full-time bike detail), fixed the lighting, added new emergency signage, and are working on implementing cameras. Yet the incidents are still occurring.
It's extremely apparent what is going on. There is no "crime wave" happening on the Schuylkill River Trail. In fact, there's no indication that the Schuylkill River Trail is any more or less safe than any other part of the surrounding area - unless you are a woman. What is happening on the Schuykill River Trail isn't an isolated incident, but a nationwide epidemic of sexual violence against women. Of course, the fact that this even needs to be spelled out is frustrating, but yet here we are.
The fact of the matter is that it seems 12-14 year old males think it is acceptable to smack women on the butt. Even if they don't think it's acceptable, they don't realize that "only a smack on the butt" is an extremely serious offense. This is absolutely horrific. Furthermore, a quick look at the comments section of the articles covering the assaults (Philly.com, ABC, RUN215 etc) contain such gems as "boys will be boys," or "this is why I carry a weapon when I'm on the trail."
No, a 14 year old boy doesn't deserve to be let off the hook with the "boys will be boys" adage. This isn't 1955. By the same token, a 14 year old boy doesn't deserve to be shot over smacking a woman on the behind, because an intelligent human being wouldn't resort to that type of retaliation. The 14 year old boys in this situation have been failed (miserably) by the men who should have educated them about sexual assault. Men are failing society by consistently failing to respect women as human beings, and both parties need to be held accountable. We see it again and again with each Brock Turner, Bill O'Reilly, or the President himself, who let are off the hook because it was "just a good time," or "locker room banter" or "only 20 minutes of action."
Last year, RUN215 conducted a survey on women's experiences with harassment by running. Over 900 women contributed. Here is what we found:
- 77% of the women surveyed worry about being sexually harassed when running alone, with only 23% saying they "Rarely/Never" worry about it.
- 84% of the women surveyed said that street harassment affects where they choose to run to some degree.
- 63% of the women surveyed said they Rarely/Never feel safe running alone at night.
- 71% of the women polled said they have been the victims of sexual harassment while running.
- 37% of the women polled feel that most men do their part to help end sexual harassment. Out of this number, 0.98% of women strongly agree that men are doing their part to help. Less than 1%....
According to RAINN, one of the country's largest anti-sexual violence organization - 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted). According to a report by Stop Street Harassment, 65% of all women surveyed had experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. SIXTY-FIVE PERCENT.
Men, we are failing, and people all over the country are being affected. What will it take to change this disgusting culture? Why do we wait for the women in our communities to be victimized before we decide to speak up? Why do women have to keep screaming loud enough for us to hear? It is absolutely pathetic. Women should not be scared to live, run, work, walk, bike, crawl, skip, on any street anywhere in our city, and they certainly shouldn't be too scared to report the crime, because even THAT is too dangerous.
It's time for men start acting like men, and it's time for the local media to start covering the real issue here, because WE ARE CLEARLY NOT DOING ENOUGH.
EDIT: Women are not the only ones who have been victims of incidents on the Schuylkill River Trail, although they make up the overwhelming majority.
Author: Jon Lyons
Founder of RUN215. Fitness Activist. Father. Self-diagnosed running addict.