Footsteps To Inspire
Claire McFarlane was raped when she was living in Paris as a student.
The attacker was caught 10 years later but it took her 16 years and lots of perseverance, guts and money to get some justice, have the rapist put in jail, and leave the legal and civil process behind her.
Running on the beach helped Claire to not give up with and to empower herself throughout the process.
Her story hit the news in 2014 and encouraged other survivors to reach out to her and share their own stories of sexual violence, whether through rape, assault or child abuse.
“Sexual violence and rape is a subject that’s difficult both to talk about and to listen to; but it’s a huge, silent epidemic that affects one in four women, and one in six men. Just talking about it wasn’t going to work. I had to find another way…,” Claire realized.
To memorize her 16-year struggle for safety she set off from South Africa on 18 July 2016, with the goal to run 16 kilometers along each coastal country of the world. Every 7-10 days she ran another beach, mostly barefoot, with the vision to peacefully end sexual violence and to inspire others to break the silence. Her 3700K journey would symbolically end in France on July 18, 2020.
She was well on her way to cover the 230 countries until in September 2017, Claire decided that she needed to run in every country and dependent territory of the world, regardless if there is a ‘beach’ or not, because “sexual violence is affecting absolutely every country of the world and generally with the same statistics,” she says.
“I have run a handful of landlocked countries and surprisingly there is always some form of beach along a river or a lake.
The journey will now end in July 2024.
The reason why is that the Footsteps To Inspire is already making an impact and creating immediate change in some countries. I make myself available to countries to use my story and my time to help create awareness, dialogue and sometimes direct action. This means being flexible and stretching out my stay in a country if needed.
Reaching and creating more awareness around child sexual abuse has also become a priority. In the USA alone, 1 in 285 children are diagnosed with cancer before the age of 20 years old5, yet 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18 years old. This makes child sexual abuse an epidemic.
On June 22 2019 Claire had run in 49 countries.
“I’m now 20% of the way through. At the end of 2018, I established an NGO called Movement To Inspire: an inclusive, global organization using sport to peacefully end sexual violence. Footsteps To Inspire remains the main project and will aim to become an annual global run to keep raising support for survivors and create change in every country of the world. Like those annual runs for other major health issues.
In September 2019 Claire is running in Scandinavia and in October she’ll hit the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Creating a safe space for conversation and understanding
“When I started out, I had a vision…through beach running I could bring people from all walks of life together, to feel safe and to talk freely about sexual violence. This is exactly what is happening, and even more than that. In so many countries of the world it is really hard for people to have a voice and speak out publicly. Through the Footsteps To Inspire movement, people can come together without the fear of being punished because in the end we are running, we are peacefully connecting and we are using movement to create a movement.
In Papua New Guinea, 200 people joined me for the run eager to be part of this collective voice and many asking if it could become an annual event. In Tanzania, villagers traveled over 150km to be at the run, passionate about the cause and committed to making it happen every year. In Nicaragua, the Hilton Hotel paid for a bus so that their staff could join me for the run 200km away.
“I rarely run alone and have noticed a common trend: people want to talk about sexual violence, they just don’t know how to. Through Footsteps To Inspire, it feels like I’m creating that safe space for conversation and understanding,” Claire says.
I had no idea I’d leave such an impact when I started out. It’s these little moments when I get to change a life that keeps me going.
Footsteps To Inspire has become a global peace organization that will live on even after I’ve run in all 230 countries.
All donations from the smallest caring contribution of a couple of dollars to the biggest enabling gift will be deeply valued and help make a huge difference!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity. You are contributing to a safer world for everyone you love and know.”
Photo by Rock Runners
Claire McFarlane is a rape survivor and founder of Footsteps To Inspire – a Geneva-based project and NGO. She is using her story of survival along with sport as a vector for global change. Claire is running 16km in every country of the world with the aim to peacefully end sexual violence.
Join and support Claire & learn more hacks to heal and transform at www.footstepstoinspire.org