Photo: David Long/CincyPhotography.com
Laurah Lukin had a great race at the Little Miami Half Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio, a couple weekends ago. She finished second in a time of 1:29:33. So when she noticed that the local photographer had tagged her in a race photo on Facebook, she was excited to see a picture from that day.
“I thought, ‘Oh this is wonderful. I’m sure its going to be a great photo that captures the day,’” Lukin recalls.
And it is a great photo, showing a determined Lukin looking strong in the middle of her half marathon. What she didn’t expect were the two repulsive comments left by a stranger underneath her picture.
The first comment was, “That’s because she doesn’t have any damn clothes on and she’s running for her life. That comment was then followed by “No wonder joggers get raped.”
Lukin felt shocked. “I have no idea who the man who commented is. I’ve never met him in my entire life.”
Unfortunately, these types of comments, both online and in person, are all too familiar to women runners. A survey released last year found that more than half of women surveyed had been harassed while running. Lukin became even more frustrated when her first reaction was to defend her outfit choice.
“I was rationalizing that it was a race. This is a race kit and those briefs are designed for racing. That really frustrated me about myself, that I felt like that had to be my response. To defend what I’m wearing.”
Instead of replying to the man who commented directly, Lukin channeled her thoughts on the incident into a blog post. She wanted to remind others that rape does not occur because of what women choose to wear and that many people use that myth to put the responsibility on the victim, instead of the predator.
“This idea that what anyone does, how they behave or what they wear makes them responsible for rape is not true at all.”
Lukin is no stranger to empowering women. After giving birth to her first child almost a year and a half ago, she and a friend had an idea to form a women’s running community in the Cincinnati area. They envisioned a group where women could share their work, life, running and parenting experiences. Through that idea, their group, LaoTong, was born.
“We could connect to each other and help each other professionally and as mothers and as runners,”Lukin shared. “So basically it’s this idea that there could be this community that could elevate women ultimately through the shared interest of running.”
LaoTong, which means sisterhood in Mandarin, meets three times per week for morning runs and workouts, along with other social outings. They have community partners and even a clothing line—which makes the racing briefs that Lukin is wearing in her half marathon photo.
“That’s our signature pattern and we call it Fast Cat. So it hit a little closer to home because we designed those and everyone loves them.”
So far the support for her blog post has been overwhelming. Even more heartening for her is that many of the supportive comments left on the blog and social media were from men.
“It’s a really great feeling to know that you have written something that resonates with people and is sparking a discussion about what I think is a really important topic is society right now,” Lukin said.
She knows that the blame women runners receive for their attire is an attitude that won’t be shifted overnight. However, Lukin hopes her blog post sparks a larger discussion about sexual assault. She wants both men and women to know that statements like those left on her Facebook photo only serve as excuses for people who think that assault survivors are responsible based on their choices.
“I said in the article that how short my shorts are is never an invitation or an indication of my consent or interest. That’s really what I want others to take out of it. The person who is the predator is at fault. It’s not the victim.”
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