Cat-Called at the Gym’s Curb

A Millikin University female student was working out at the Decatur Indoor Sports Center (DISC) when a man stared her down during her whole workout. Shortly after leaving the gym, she received a Facebook request. He was standing next to his fiancé.

This is not a rare situation outside of Millikin’s campus also known as the “Millibubble.” Stories of whistling, grabbing and yelling from passing vehicles are common. The Milli-Bubble protects students, especially females. However, when they have to venture off campus, they begin to experience frequent instances of cat-calling.

“I think a lot of times Millikin students are stuck in their Milli-Bubble, so interaction with the Decatur community is essential, however, the DISC doesn’t offer a safe space for women to make those interactions,” Senior Megan Batty said.

According to the Millikin University website, the DISC was built as a joint project between Millikin and the Decatur Park District. Since the 87,000 square foot building was built as a joint effort, the access to the building is also joint between the Decatur and Millikin communities.

Millikin’s female population is feeling uncomfortable in a building that is as much theirs as it is those causing the discomfort.

Sophomore Samantha Mool proposes a solution.

“It is necessary to have an on-campus recreational center,” She said. “Going [on] any roam outside of immediate campus, walking to the DISC, I pass people who will cat-call me. I pass people who make me uncomfortable. I deserve to feel comfortable.”

Using the DISC forces students to venture off-campus when they choose to use the Decatur Indoor Sports Center (DISC). Millikin is one of the few universities in Illinois that does not have a recreational center.

“Being aware of your surroundings is so difficult when your surroundings are changing so quickly,” Mool said. “You think you are on campus when you are at the DISC, but it is actually off campus. Decatur is known for not being completely safe and having some of those people who do cat-call me on the street, in the gym when I am working out and not fully paying attention to others around me, is scary.”

Mool keeps her belongings next to her at the gym, including her keys and ID, in fear someone may discover which car is hers and take her property.

Senior Kaitlyn Dixon also expressed her concerns both before and during her time at Millikin. She is now a graduating senior.

“Millikin not having a recreational center was definitely a drawback for me when I was choosing Millikin,” Dixon said. “I knew that the gym was something I would utilize multiple times a week and knowing that Millikin shares that with the Decatur community, it was a red flag.”

Dixon visited over twenty colleges before coming to Millikin and it was one of only three universities she visited that did not have a recreational center.

Her main concern was not her time spent in the dance studio with other students as an involved theatre student but her personal time spent in the weight portion of the DISC.

“When I use the gym to just work out, that is when I am really with the community members and a lot of times that becomes cat-calling,” Dixon said.

Cat-calling occurs at the DISC between all genders but most prominently from men with muscle tanks on to women who are not even allowed to work out in a sports bra.

“I would say to create policies against cat-calling but that would be kind of hard to enforce,” Dixon said. “I mean, you can’t stop people from talking to one another and you certainly can’t keep people from staring.”

Dixon has taken precautions such as keeping her headphones on low and working out with a buddy to protect herself.

Any person engaging in cat-calling at the DISC is violating Section 1.13 of the Decatur Park District Ordinance No. 456 and, according to the document, “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, may be forthwith ejected from park property and may have any permits or passes previously issued forfeited and may be fined upon conviction not less than Sixty-five Dollars ($65.00) and not more than One Thousand Dollars ($1000.00) for each offense, the fine to be recovered in manner and form as provided by law.”

This ordinance is available on the Decatur Park District website. Click this link to view the document.