While the vast majority of gym-goers are there for legitimate fitness reasons, there are those who might use the setting to engage in predatory behavior. Below are ten signs to watch out for, along with real-life examples, and advice on how to handle such situations:
- Example: Jane was doing her leg exercises when she noticed a man constantly staring at her from across the room, making her uncomfortable.
- How to Avoid: Choose machines or workout areas with less visibility or change your position.
Unwanted Physical Touch
- Example: While stretching, Maria felt a stranger pat her lower back, offering unsolicited advice on her form.
- How to Avoid: Wear headphones and maintain a closed body language to deter unsolicited interactions.
Taking Unwanted Photos or Videos
- Example: Nick caught someone discreetly trying to film him while he was changing in the locker room.
- How to Avoid: Be aware of your surroundings. If you suspect someone, subtly block the camera view and report the incident.
Persistent Unwanted Conversations
- Example: After every workout, Lisa found the same guy trying to strike up personal conversations despite her showing disinterest.
- How to Avoid: Politely but firmly state that you prefer to keep your gym time private.
Stalking or Following Inside/Outside the Gym
- Example: After several gym sessions, Amy noticed the same person seeming to always leave at the same time as her, even following her a few blocks.
- How to Avoid: Change your gym routine occasionally and be aware of anyone who seems to consistently shadow your movements.
Offering Unwanted Assistance
- Example: During her squat routine, Sarah was suddenly approached by a stranger who tried to “help” her by holding her waist without asking.
- How to Avoid: Politely decline and, if needed, seek assistance from gym staff.
Invading Personal Space
- Example: Every time Mark went to the weights section, a particular individual always seemed to work out too close to him, despite the area being spacious.
- How to Avoid: Shift to a different area or ask the individual to respect your space.
Making Inappropriate Comments or Compliments
- Example: While on the treadmill, Rachel was told by a fellow gym-goer how "sexy" she looked when she sweat.
- How to Avoid: Address the comment directly, telling the individual that their words are inappropriate and unwanted.
Using the Gym as a Facade
- Example: Tom noticed a man who often came to the gym but rarely worked out, instead spending most of his time observing others.
- How to Avoid: Trust your instincts. If someone seems out of place, notify the gym staff.
10. Manipulating Situations for Physical Contact
- Example: Caroline was asked by a gym member to spot him during a weight lift, only for him to deliberately drop the weight and pull her down with him.
- How to Avoid: If you're unsure about someone's intentions, avoid situations that require close contact or seek assistance from a trusted friend or gym staff.
What to Do if You Spot a Sexual Predator at the Gym:
- Trust your instincts. If something feels off, it probably is.
- Report any suspicious behavior to the gym staff or management.
- Do not confront the suspected predator directly, especially if you feel unsafe.
- Inform close friends or family about the situation and consider having a buddy system at the gym.
- If you feel threatened or believe you are in immediate danger, call the police.
Remember, the gym should be a safe space for everyone. Stay vigilant, look out for one another, and never hesitate to speak up.