“I’ll lower you once the pretty lady rappels”, he called out to his climbing partner, all the while inching closer to me on the tiny belay ledge. I froze, unable to speak up and wanting nothing more than to be away from him & back on the ground.
A few months ago, many major climbing media sites released the results of a survey regarding sexual harassment & sexual assault (SHSA) in the climbing community. However, across these sites and others there were tons of comment threads with people claiming that SHSA don’t exist in our community. That because they haven’t personally seen it, or they and their friends are “good guys” that it must never happen. I took the survey when it went out last spring, because so many of my friends and I have dealt with these issues within the context of climbing. Don’t get me wrong, I love this community & the home I have built for myself here, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have many issues to work through.
On November 4th, I was sexually harassed while on a belay ledge at the Gunks. The man made multiple suggestive comments to me as I passed him going up my route & then again when I was heading down. On an already small ledge, he kept moving closer & closer to me. This complete stranger went as far as to remove my PAS from the anchor and reach fully around my waist to clip it back onto my harness (I was about to rappel and was attached to my rope at this time). When this happened, I froze. Uncomfortable and bothered by what was happening, I didn’t feel safe enough to speak up. He had shown multiple times in the <10 minutes we were at the same belay ledge that he was closer to my anchor point than I was. He showed a blatant disregard for what his climber was doing. He referred to me as “pretty lady” to his friend after already using my name (overheard from my climbing partner). I wish I had spoken up but I couldn’t find the words. I was shaking when I got to the ground. This is (unfortunately) not the first time I have been sexually harassed, however, this was the first time I was unable to remove myself from the situation. Have you experienced anything similar, what have you done?