Sexual Harassment in the Outdoors: Our Stories
Six women talk about their experiences with harassment while recreating or working in the outdoor industry
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Earlier this year, Outside released a survey to help us better understand readers’ experiences with sexual harassment in outdoor recreation and outdoor industry jobs. Of 4,193 people who responded, 70 percent had been harassed themselves, with the most common cases being catcalled and followed by foot, bike, or car. We also spoke with six women who were willing to share their stories. Their accounts, below, show just some of the dynamics and toxic behavior that create uncomfortable or dangerous experiences for women.
“I started working as an instructor at a gym outside Kansas City. It was my first job, and I was mainly a belayer for kids’ birthday parties. At the end of a party, I was helping kids out of their harnesses, and they were little so I had to kneel down. One of the dads needed help getting out of his harness, too, so I undid the buckles. When I stood up, he told me he was disappointed I wasn’t on my knees longer for him. I was 15.” —Jasmin Menez, climbing-gym employee, Missouri
“It was the end of my fifth season as a teacher at an outdoor-education company. Everyone was dancing around the staff kitchen after a wedding. I was sober.
Sexual Harassment in Outdoor Workplaces
First, one of the supervisors grabbed my breast. Then a friend of mine snatched the hem of my dress and tried to pull it over my head—he got it to chest level before I was able to fight him off. Later, that same supervisor lunged at me from across the room, reached up my dress, and tried to take my underwear off. I shoved him away.
I was nervous to report it but I did, and the supervisor immediately resigned. The organization told me that he wouldn’t have been fired, though, because it was too much of a ‘he said, she said’ thing. I was told not to take any further action because it would jeopardize the whole institution and I could be taken to court for defamation. I felt like it was swept under the rug.” —Brianna, outdoor-skills instructor, Pacific Northwest
“I was working as a technical representative for a big apparel company, my first job out of college. One evening after a sales meeting, our team—everyone else was male—went out to dinner, and we were having a good time. Then, out of nowhere, my boss grabbed my breast in front of my peers. I asked him why he did that, and he said his girlfriend had little breasts and he wanted to know what big ones felt like. I was frozen.
I was new to the industry, and I didn’t know what to do about it. No one at the table said anything or stood up for me.” —Jenn Lynn Dumas, outdoor-industry employee, Oregon
“I was 27 when I moved to Montana. I didn’t have outdoor partners yet, so I explored Glacier National Park solo one weekend. I did a day hike to Bowman Lake, which is in a remote section of the park. Back in the parking lot, three men approached me, and then all of a sudden I was surrounded. The man in front, who was maybe 50, asked me what I was doing. I told him that my boyfriend was close behind. He said, ‘We know you’re alone out here.’ I tried to walk to my truck, and he said, ‘Where do you think you’re going, little lady?’ I was carrying a bear-spray canister, and I pointed it at them. I was able to scramble into my truck, and I sped off down the dirt road.
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They followed me into town, where I ran into a bar. They came inside, sat down, and watched me. The bartender rode with me back to my hostel. It was heartbreaking, because I love hiking and backpacking, and it was a long time before I could do it alone after that.” —Sarah Weatherby, hiker, Montana
“I became a guide at 21. I’ve never been raped, thank God, but I’ve experienced everything else. It was sort of expected that I’d just deal in a male-dominated field. One night I was at a high camp on a mountain with a fellow guide. We were in the middle of a huge snowstorm, and the rest of the team was elsewhere on the mountain, so we were alone. He’d hinted that he was going to pick me as an assistant on a big international trip—success in guiding depends on the trips you’re on—so I was excited. But he thought picking me would come with a physical expression of gratitude. He cornered me in a way that was scary: he had 50 pounds on me, and we were alone. I tried to be cute and weasel out of it, but it turned mean and nasty fast. He said, ‘I thought we could dry-hump until I feel good.’ I didn’t get on that international trip because I wouldn’t be his fuck buddy.” —name withheld, mountain guide
“I decided to do a six-day trek in Nepal, in the Annapurna range, and hired a Nepali guide, which is recommended when hiking solo. It was winter, so the teahouses were cold. On this particular night, there was only one other trekker in the teahouse, and he was in the common room. My guide wanted to push our beds together for warmth. I refused repeatedly. When he got aggressive, the conversation turned angry. He jumped into my bed. I was yelling and screaming and eventually was able to kick and fight him off me. We were on top of a mountain, and I was entirely reliant on my guide for directions. But if I stayed with him, I would risk being attacked.
The next morning, I left early with the other trekker. After hours of running, my guide caught up with us. Eventually, I convinced him to give me my trekking passport back and leave. I never saw him again, but people I passed in villages kept saying things like, ‘Why are you mad at your guide? He did nothing wrong. You are a bad, bad girl.’ ” —Katie, trekking client