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An Open Letter to the Guy Who Harassed Me at the Gym

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Minnesota chapter.

*Trigger Warning: the content of this letter is extremely descriptive and emotionally charged, and may evoke fear and stress in some readers.

This summer, I bought a real gym membership for the first time in my life. I was so excited to work out somewhere that wasn’t at school. It wasn’t because I didn’t love the Rec Center, I just loved the idea of investing in my own health and wellness. It wasn’t but a week later that I experienced, for the first time in my life, sexual harassment at the gym. I must acknowledge that this letter does not necessarily represent the experiences of all, rather it’s a reflection on my own encounter.

To The Guy Who Sexually Harassed Me at the Gym,

I don’t know your name, how old you are, or where you’re from. I don’t know what kind of car you drive, or where you work. But what I do know is how your backside and crotch look nearly hovering over me, just feet away, as you “stretch.” I know what your sweat drenched body feels like, pressed against my shoulder, as you lie down next to my exercise mat. I know what your weight feels like, as you roll over, half of your body on top of mine.  I know the smell of your breath, mixed with pungent cologne, as you whispered to me, asking me to leave with you. And days later, after seeing the security footage, I know what you look like as you follow me from elliptical to free weights, sizing me up, stalking me like prey, and watching me as though I’m there for your entertainment, for your pleasure. I know the feeling of my heart dropping to my stomach when I found out you weren’t even supposed to be there, that your membership had been terminated. For someone who doesn’t know anything about you, I sure do seem to know a lot, don’t I?

I remember laying there on the mat after you left, frozen still. I felt as though one of the fifty pound plates had just been dropped on my chest, and my heart was beating relentlessly, trying to get it off.  When I finally got up, I peered around the gym cautiously, just waiting for your return. I approached a man, and asked if he had seen you. He asked me what you did, I told him, and he said he had seen you do “stuff like that” all the time, as if that was actually so sort of consolation or comfort. It wasn’t.

As much as I wanted to stay there and finish my workout, I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to let you win. I didn’t want to let you make me quit, but I couldn’t stay. Anxiety swelled inside me, telling me to leave before you came back. But what if you were just outside the door? What if you were waiting at my car? What if?

When I got home I ran a shower as hot as it could get, and laid there on the floor for what felt like an eternity. I felt violated. I felt angry and sad. I felt scared, but more than anything I felt dirty. So I laid there and prayed that water as hot as hell would wash you off of me. I tried to defend myself to the jury in my head,

“I was wearing a baggy t-shirt!”

“My shorts weren’t even that short!”

“I wasn’t even doing any sort of provocative work out, I swear!”

I felt guilty. I felt guilty that I had let this happen, that I had let you have so much control over me and my emotions. Why didn’t I stand up to you? Why didn’t I call you out or, better yet, call the police? Why did you feel that you could act the way you did? I can’t really tell you the answers to these questions. But here’s what I can tell you: I’m not here for your pleasure. I work out because I love my body and I want to take care of it. I dress the way I do because I love my clothes and I want to wear them. I live the life that I do because I love myself, and because I want to. There is no part of me, or anyone else, that exists for your benefit.

I know from experience that I can’t change you or what you did, but I’ll be damned if I don’t change something. I can, and I will, act as an agent of change. I will work relentlessly to build a culture that defies you, a culture that doesn’t shame, exploit or abuse, but instead respects, loves and empowers. And if somewhere, somehow, you’re reading this, I don’t need your apologies or your guilt. I don’t need your defense or your justification. What I really need, is for you to just go f*ck yourself.

Sorry Not Sorry,



Lauren is the Her Campus Correspondent at the University of Minnesota where she is currently studying Strategic Communications with and emphasis in Public Relations. Lauren also works for a national nonprofit organization called Miss Amazing that focuses on empowering women with disabilities by hosting programs offering the opportunity to develop life long skills, build confidence, express themselves, and create meaningful relationships. In addition to her work with Her Campus and Miss Amazing, Lauren also works as the Public Relations and Branding Coordinator at Metropolitan Salons and Spas and as an assistant at a law firm in downtown Minneapolis. When she isn't busy working, Lauren enjoys reading, shopping, spending time with her family and friends, and of course watching New Girl. Lauren is an enthusiast for many things: coffee, Kate Spade, office supplies, home décor, women's empowerment, and pugs, just to name a few. Lauren's favorite quote (right now) is, "Give me some wifi, a pair of heels, some coffee and watch me make the world go round." HCXO!