Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Safe spaces in the outdoors

Outdoor Retailer show-goers learned how to fight sexual harassment and assault with #SafeOutside.

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Charlie Lieu (left) and  Dr. Callie Rennison led a discussion about sexual harassment in the  world of climbing.
Charlie Lieu (left) and Dr. Callie Rennison led a discussion at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2018 about sexual harassment in the world of climbing.Courtesy

Imagine being propositioned by your boss, catcalled and harassed on official work overnight trips, or groped and forcibly kissed by a climbing partner who’s tied into a rope with you. 

Women in the outdoor industry have endured all that and worse. And as much as we might like to think this business is above sexual harassment and assault, it’s not immune to the abuses of society as a whole

That was just one of the key takeaways that University of Colorado-Denver professor and Department of Justice veteran Dr. Callie Rennison highlighted yesterday afternoon during a session titled “Addressing Sexual Harassment and Assault in the Outdoor Industry.”

A group of nonprofit leaders, media, professional climbers, and curious individuals gathered on crash pads at the High Altitude Den to discuss what the industry can do about sexual harassment and assault. Attendees explored best practices for preventing, addressing, and handling occurrences. First and foremost, organizations and workplaces must create a supportive environment that is safe for victims to come forward and report incidents. They should also educate members about sexual harassment and assault, and clearly communicate expectations for behavior and consequences for not meeting them. Organizations also need to create policies for reporting and handling incidents.

The group discussed #SafeOutside, a grassroots initiative taking aim at combating sexual harassment and assault and how it has gained momentum, with participation from dozens of climbing and outdoor industry partners and press. 

Individuals can join #SafeOutside in a united front against sexual harassment and assault Aug. 27 by posting stories and/or a pledge to intervene on social media with the hashtag #SafeOutside. Organizations from all industries can participate by putting up public statements of support.

That will be the same day guidelines for companies are released, alongside data from a survey exploring sexual harassment in the climbing industry.

For more information on how to participate, contact Charlie Lieu at lieu@alum.mit.edu.