Fear of violent crime and concern for personal safety are well documented fears among women (Bialeschki & Hicks, 1998; Wesley & Gaarder, 2004). Feminist theorists argue that concern for personal safety among women is one of the most significant ways in which women’s lives and their use of space is controlled and restricted (Bialeschki, 1999; Cops & Pleysier, 2011). Employing a feminist standpoint framework (Hill Collins, 2000), the purpose of this study was to qualitatively examine recreational female runners’ concerns for safety while running outdoors in an urban park setting and the strategies employed to negotiate or manage their concerns. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 20 female recreational runners. Interview data were analyzed following the procedures outlined by Corbin and Strauss (2007) for open and axial coding. The following themes emerged from the interview data: (a) fear of being attacked, (b) environmental and social cues, (c) normalization of street harassment, (d) negotiation strategies, and (e) recommendations for enhancing safety. The findings provide important information pertaining to women’s access to safe outdoor space in which to exercise. Perceptions of safety, fear of being attacked and experiences of harassment have the power to negatively influence women’s engagement and enjoyment in outdoor PA/exercise.
The author is with the Department of Kinesiology, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX.