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A new YouGov survey conducted by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust for National Personal Safety Day 2023, supported by Peoplesafe, found that harassment has been experienced by one in ten respondents across all sports and exercise areas surveyed, including parks, sports clubs and leisure centres. 

In addition, the report reveals that one in five people who had taken an online exercise class in the last year had experienced harassment whilst engaging in this activity, and 1 in 10 of those had been sexually harassed specifically. As more of our lives take place online, demand for online exercise classes has risen exponentially and it is now more important than ever that online spaces are free from harassment. 

Respondents reported experiencing harassment at the following venues: 

• 19% harassed on an outdoors sport pitch. 

• 14% harassed in a private gym. 

• 13% who had exercised in the streets. 

• 12% who had experienced in their local park in the last year. 

• 9% who had exercised in a leisure of sports centre. 

Significantly, more women who responded to the survey had experienced harassment whilst engaging in sports and exercise than male respondents (13% compared with 9%). 

Despite the prevalence of harassment within sports and exercise communities, 78% of respondents who had experienced this had not reported the incident. In addition, 59% of respondents admitted they would not intervene if they witnessed harassment taking place during a physical activity. There is an urgent need for more education to empower bystanders to intervene in a safe way when they see harassment taking place. 

Suky Bhaker, CEO of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said: “We are extremely concerned by the findings of our research, which demonstrate that harassment during sports and exercise is still commonplace and widely under-reported. The statistics show the prevalence of these incidents and the lack of access to support. This is not good enough. It is all of our responsibility to work together to combat harassment. It is essential that criminal justice system professionals take all reports of harassment seriously. We would also like to see sports and exercise venues, as well as green spaces, work holistically to ensure they are safe by design and include women and girls in the planning process to recognise the nuanced ways in which a space can facilitate abuse. 

“There is also an urgent need for the robust implementation of new legislation to combat public sexual harassment and workplace sexual harassment that we have campaigned tirelessly for. This National Personal Safety Day we want to galvanise widespread cultural change to tackle harassment and encourage everyone to be a #GameChanger. No one should be faced with violence, aggression and harassment when engaging in sports and exercise.”

Naz Dossa, Peoplesafe CEO and BSIA Chair of the Lone Working Group, said: “With 1 in 10 people experiencing harassment in sport, it’s clear that there’s an urgent need to raise awareness of personal safety. Everyone should feel free to partake in any activity without the fear of harassment, and it’s clear from these findings that for this to happen, behavioural and societal change is paramount. We’re strong supporters of driving transformational change to improve personal safety for all. Whether it’s councils creating safe spaces to exercise, businesses supporting their people or government leading the way through legislation, we’re calling on everyone to work together collaboratively to make a difference.” 

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