Mollie Tibbetts killing drives women to share harrowing stories of harassment while running

A poster for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs in the window of a local business (Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP)
A poster for missing University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts hangs in the window of a local business (Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP)

The month-long search for Mollie Tibbetts came to a tragic end this week when investigators located the 20-year-old’s body in a cornfield near her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. Tibbetts, who was set to start her sophomore year at the University of Iowa this week, was last seen jogging on the evening of July 18.

Investigators say they solved the case through security footage of Tibbetts going on a run, which lead them to the owner of a Chevy Malibu: Cristhian Bahena Rivera. In a story that probably sounds familiar to any woman who has gone running alone, the 24-year-old farm worker reportedly confessed to following Tibbetts, saying he was inexplicably “drawn” to her and that after he exited his car to run alongside her, Tibbetts threatened to call the police — which made him angry. After that, investigators say Rivera told them, heblacked out” and woke up later to find her dead in his car.

Since the news of Rivera’s confession broke, women have taken to social media to share their stories of harassment while running. Some are long, harrowing threads. Some are in response to media outlets suddenly discovering some women are afraid to run alone. But all of them are painful to read, and a stark reminder that women can’t do many simple things without feeling unsafe.

Many shared their fears around running alone, and the steps they take to avoid being bothered, like pretending to talk on the phone, or carrying pepper spray.

Some just don’t run alone, or after dark. Often, it’s because they’ve been harassed or worse.

Men weighed in too, mostly to share that they don’t have those fears. A few scolded women, with one writing women need to “learn to find a friend of family member to run with,” and blamed Mollie Tibbetts for her own death.

Many women responded with anger (and sarcasm) to a tweet from CNN, about a story the outlet published with a social media headline reading, “A startling number of women say they have been harassed while running.” That number is 70% and is not news to half of the country (women).

And one man provided the perfect response, explaining in a tweet that solution to this issue is to teach men to respect women who are going about their daily lives.

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