By Surena Chande
One of Kingston’s most popular gyms has pledged to beef up security measures and ban trouble-makers after an alleged claim of harassment.
The Gym, the only fitness centre in Kingston open 24 hours, is popular with Kingston University students, but some women have been left worried after allegedly being intimidated by men.
Ed Whitson, the manager of the Kingston branch of The Gym, stated that the centre is determined to take tough measures against any member who creates an unpleasant atmosphere.
“I am trying to run an effective, safe environment for people to work out in and if people create an environment that other members wouldn’t work out in, then that is a problem,” said Mr Whitson. “We’re providing a facility for members to use and if they misbehave or do not use it accordingly they will be dealt with.”
The fitness centre is 24 hour CCTV monitored and also has several ‘panic buttons’ installed around the gym, including in the changing rooms.
“The CCTV is being monitored by an external team that are licensed to monitor them. The response depends on the emergency,” said Mr Whitson. “In the case of a fight breaking out, the police and I would be contacted. The CCTV would generally pick it up first and we’d react accordingly. It’s never happened at any of the gyms far as I’m aware of.”
KU students harassed
Kingston University student Talia Blackford, 20, was one of the women who suffered from harassment at The Gym. Ms Blackford stated that she was in the female changing room when suddenly a man walked in.
“I was at the gym late one night and as I was getting changed after my shower, a girl and a guy walked in,” said Ms Blackford. “I was slightly stunned for a second and said this was a female changing room. The girl just said that it was okay because she was with him.”
According to Ms Blackford, she then hurried to leave but failed to report the episode.
“I didn’t report it as they only have staff during the hours I am busy,” said Ms Blackford. “I looked for an email address on the website but I couldn’t find one that was suitable.”
Another Kingston University student, who wished to remain anonymous, said she had chosen not to report incidents where male members had been “lurking” around her and asking her when she would be finished with a particular piece of equipment. According to the student, she found the incident “not only annoying but intimidating at times”.
“If it were to get more sinister I definitely would [report it],” said the student. “All of the staff there are really nice and friendly.”
Though The Gym promises to deal with issues as quickly as possible, so far the facility has only had one official complaint regarding harassment. The member, the student who requested anonymity, filed the complaint when she was harassed by a fellow member.
“Recently when I was at the gym, a tall, big built and rather intimidating man came up to me while I was working out,” said the student. “He began saying rude and vulgar things to me and even after telling him that my boyfriend was next to me, he said ‘I don’t care if that’s your boyfriend or father, he can fight me if he wants’ and continued.
“When he eventually left me alone I left as the whole event had been so upsetting.”
The student decided to take action and filled out a complaint form online. She was contacted by the manager who assured her measures would be taken.
“Just 10 minutes later he called me back and said he knew the member and would be banning him that same day,” said the student. “He was really helpful and reassured me as I had been quite worried about returning to the gym.
“He told me that he was really serious about preventing members like that being at the gym and would continue to deal with any similar cases in the same manner.”
Mr Whitson has encouraged members to come forth if they experience any similar incidents.
“If members are being harassed or have any issues you need to come forward to us and we can do something about it and look at the evidence,” said Mr Whitson. He Added that members could also fill in a form under the ‘contact us’ section of their website, where a manager will get back to them.