A woman has reminded other women to “be safe” while sharing the steps she took after learning that a man at her gym was taking photos of her.
In a video posted to TikTok earlier this year, Stephanie, 22, who goes by the username @vniel, revealed that she had been working out at her gym when another woman followed her into the bathroom to inform her about the man’s actions, at which point she changed into an oversized sweatshirt.
Stephanie began the video by showing what she “first wore to the gym…” with the clip showing the TikToker standing in front of a mirror in the locker room in a crop top and bike shorts.
The video then transitioned to a clip of Stephanie wearing an oversized gray hoodie and giving a thumbs up, which she captioned: “And this is why I had to change…”
In the video, Stephanie proceeded to film herself as she approached the front desk to inform the gym employees that she had been photographed by the gym goer.
“Hi, um, so I went to the bathroom and this girl came inside and she told me that a guy who is wearing an orange sweater, she was behind him and he was taking pictures of me,” the 22 year old can be heard telling the gym staff.
In a text caption on the video, Stephanie wrote that she has “never had this happen to [her] before,” but that she’s “always seen TikToks [about] it and admired girls who could confront guys who would take pictures of them.”
Stephanie then proceeded to inform the gym employees that she was “scared,” before tearing up over the encounter.
“I was so in shock that I didn’t even know what to do and was so uncomfortable I started crying, also because I’m very shy and knew I wouldn’t be able to confront him myself,” Stephanie wrote in a caption on the video. “It just sucks that I can’t feel confident anymore in a place that was comfortable for me because guys can’t respect women who are trying to work on themselves and minding their business.”
In the video, Stephanie captured the conversation that took place between herself and the gym employees, who asked questions to identify the man before assuring her that they would confront the individual and have the pictures deleted.
“If he took a picture, we need to get his phone and delete it, so I’m going to talk to our manager right now,” one employee could be heard telling Stephanie.
The gym staff also encouraged Stephanie to let them know if she encountered the man in question again, before comforting her over the situation.
In the video, which Stephanie concluded with a photo taken of the man in the gym who reportedly took the photos of her, she wrote: “Ladies… please be safe out here and be observant! I never did because I didn’t think it would ever happen to me but now I know.”
The video has since been viewed more than 2.6m times, with many viewers sharing supportive messages for Stephanie in the comments.
“I’m so incredibly sorry for this happened to you,” one person wrote.
Another viewer said: “I’m so proud of you for speaking up. You’re so brave and I’m so sorry you had to go through this.”
“Good job speaking up girl! Proud of you,” someone else wrote, prompting Stephanie to respond that she hadn’t wanted to at first because she was “so scared” that the man would see her tell gym staff about his behavior and “come after me” but that she is ultimately glad she did “because otherwise he would’ve kept doing it to other girls too”.
The video also prompted many viewers to share stories about their own similar encounters. “Something similar happened to me at the gym around a month ago and I started crying when telling the front desk people. I hate how this is so common,” one person wrote.
“This happened to me yesterday too and it was another guy who told me about it. I didn’t know what to do though,” another viewer said.
While reflecting on the incident to BuzzFeed, Stephanie shared the shock, sadness and disgust she felt about the situation, which she said she never thought would happen to her. “I feel comfortable working out in a sports bra and spandex because it’s what makes me feel good in the gym. I feel confident in my body and I wear that outfit for myself. To find out a guy had pictures or videos of me doing a workout without my consent just made me uncomfortable – knowing that he was looking at me a certain way in an outfit that was supposed to make me feel good,” she said.
Stephanie also discussed her decision to report the incident to staff members, with the 22 year old reiterating that she chose to inform the gym employees, despite her own fears, in the hopes of protecting other women.
“If I didn’t say or do something, this guy could continue to do it to other females in my gym and I was not okay with that, no matter how shy or scared I was. I wanted to ensure that no other female had to go through with what I went through there,” she said.
The IndependentYou have contacted Stephanie for comment.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.