An open letter to climbing gyms: You need sexual harassment training

Dear Climbing Gyms,

My name is Georgie Abel and I am a current member and former employee of Touchstone Climbing and Fitness. I started climbing at Diablo Rock Gym about twelve years ago when I was sixteen years old. Because of climbing gyms such as Touchstone, I have made best friends, learned how to climb, and worked a rewarding job. I am grateful for the many things that climbing gyms across the country have given me and would not be contacting you if I didn’t have great respect for your businesses.

I’m currently working as a freelance writer and editor and often focus on feminism and women in rock climbing. In fact, I wrote a blog post for Touchstone a few years back that highlighted climbing stories from women. Whenever I write an article on this subject, I receive messages from women around the country telling me accounts of being treated badly in climbing (gym and outdoors) because of their gender. These stories range from comments about a woman’s body to instances of sexual assault. The experiences of women of color are often more severe because they have to put up with misogyny and racism together. As of today, I have received hundreds of messages of this nature. In addition to these messages, several articles, surveys, and social media posts were recently published that describe situations of misogyny, harassment, and abuse towards women in outdoor sports.

For a while, I was unsure of what to do with all of this disheartening information. I still don’t have a perfect solution, but I do believe that we all need to work together to make the climbing community a safe and welcoming place for women (and everyone else).

I am contacting you to ask for your help in this endeavor. When it comes to putting an end to misogyny, I believe that climbing gyms are in an especially powerful position. Because so many people now go to the gym for information, coaching, and mentorship, climbing gyms are the gatekeepers of our sport in many ways. Due to the issue of misogyny in rock climbing and the responsibility that climbing gyms hold, I am kindly asking that all climbing gyms implement a mandatory sexual harassment training course for all of their employees.

Harassment of all kinds is still a massive problem in the American workplace. Furthermore, issues like sexual harassment and stress are pervasive when women enter into male-dominated jobs such as route setting.

While sexual harassment training laws don’t even exist in some states, many businesses require their employees to take a training regardless. Whether this is for legal reasons or good measure, sexual harassment training is standard for even small companies these days.

Safety is the number one priority at most if not all climbing gyms. However, without something as basic as sexual harassment training, the safety of your employees, members, and the rest of our community cannot be ensured.

Thank you for your consideration and time. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Respectfully,

Georgie Abel


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