SafeSail: Women of sailing have rallied

As was done in April 2023, Scuttlebutt has provided anonymity to the author for this message:

Dear Sailors,

Remember me? I caused quite a ruckus last year calling out the too-allowed unsavory behavior of the fortunately few – but unfortunately too many – men of the sailing community.

The women of sailing rallied. There were so many stories, not just of unwelcome words, but of gropes, of rapes, of threats. Stories of men promising careers if and only if… (you can fill in the blank). Old stories. New stories. Many from women who walked away from sailing, vowing to never put themselves in that position ever again.

But mostly, many stories from women who had just given in and put up with it because it’s so normal to us that it doesn’t feel worth the fight. And that is a sad fact.

The men… well, some of them rallied alright. Many wanted names to direct their angry pitchforks toward. Many said I shouldn’t have been dressed so temptingly (in my flat sandals and floor length skirt, mind you). Many wanted my name, calling me a coward.

But the sailing world is small, and those of you who know me already knew it was me, and I didn’t feel in need of the personal attention of strangers. And so men who knew me called me and promised to be my knights in shining armor – which I do believe to be from a place of genuine concern, if a bit misguided, because this wasn’t about me, but about all of us.

Yet, when one asked me over the phone what the club could do to help, and I responded, “I don’t know, maybe start by allowing women to be members?”… he just laughed.

I was asked by organizers what should be done to prevent more of this, maybe a reporting system should be created? I thought that was a great idea! So, I rallied around a dozen women and men from the pro and amateur sailing scenes for their thoughts, talked with lawyers, and chewed on ideas with reps from US and World Sailing.

We all spoke at length sharing stories and plans, and from those meetings SafeSail was initially conceived and eventually born into a registered nonprofit organization.

The mission of SafeSail is to both educate and de-escalate, and when that can’t be done, support victims in having their voices heard. They already have supported some women who reached out directly in coming forward to authorities with disturbing stories. But they are not an investigation body – that is the job of SafeSport, law enforcement, and individual classes and clubs.

SafeSail does not collect and store reports, they are not a registry of offenders or a database of debauchery. They are just a simple form, on a simple website, that a witness or victim can fill out and have sent directly to the event or club organizer. You can confidentially request what response you’d prefer – from a verbal warning from an ally, to an escalation to lawful authority. But the most important part is that you won’t have to do it alone. SafeSail is a simple tool – but it can be a powerful one. However, a tool is only useful if used!

The less-direct messages received once the tool was initially announced – from both men and women – spoke of fear that a woman’s word may not be trustworthy, that she will try to tear a man down simply for personal gain, and that’s why nothing should be done. Well, I have good news for those who fear – false reports make up only 2-7% of all those filed; more so, 63% of assaults are never reported at all (NSVRC).

The lack of reporting is for many reasons – you all can research on your own. But this is the math of it that matters: somewhere around 93-98% of assaults are either real enough to escalate to authorities, or real enough to terrify the victim into silence. Let me assuage you in more familiar terms: If there was a 98% chance that the right side of the course was favored, why wouldn’t you go that way?

Here is another not-so-fun fact (from RAINN): 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. I am one of them. You definitely know a lot of us. If you didn’t pay attention in Psych 101, here’s something else you should know – when a body feels threatened, survival instincts kick in and the brain only allows one of four choices – fight, flee, fawn, and freeze.

Look around the bar at your next regatta. How many women do you see? Divide that number by six. I can guarantee you, all of those women are afraid of it happening again. But she won’t show it (fawn). Because she’s there, just like you, to have a good time sailing. But she’s alert (fight). And she knows who in the crowd to avoid (flee).

But maybe her tactics didn’t pan out, and now she’s been made someone’s mark. She’s being waylaid and wearing a tight-lipped smile (freeze). What do you think could happen next? Do you just stand by and watch? Or will you stand up for her? Would you even bother asking her if she was okay? I highly recommend that both men and women look into active bystander training – it may just save someone someday.

So, there you have it – both the feelings and the facts. And now my challenge to all of you is this:
1 – Get better at calling out misbehavior.
2 – Get better at protecting those who are vulnerable.
3 – Encourage your classes, events and clubs to sign up for SafeSail.
4 – Work deliberately to make the sailing community a safe, welcoming, and inspiring one for future generations of women – and men – to enjoy!

I also want to thank the following organizations who have already signed up: Cape 31 Class, Snipe Class, Midwest Collegiate Sailing Association, Milwaukee Community Sailing Center, positiveSEASTRhood, The Sailing School at the Hudson River Maritime Museum, Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta, Bacardi Winter Series, Bermuda Race, Sarasota Viper Winter Series, Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club, Storm Trysail Club, Sandpoint Sailing Association, Gull Lake Sailing Club, Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation, Sail Seabird, Fast Tango, S/V Andreas, Charlottetown Yacht Club, Wayzata Yacht Club, Duluth Yacht Club, The Kollegewidgwok Sailing Education Association (KSEA), and the 2024 Sunfish Michigan Open Championship.

You are setting the example – it is now up to the rest of the sailing world to follow!


A sort-of Anonymous Sailor

Bizi Sosyal Medyada Takip Edin !