With all of the talk about sexual harassment and abuse in the news, I would like to address this issue myself. I was a victim more than once of this type of abuse when I was young. The men were not billionaires or famous, just predators who thought they could do anything and get away with it at work. They actually did.
The first situation was my boss. He constantly groped, grabbed and pinched me every single day I worked, even when his wife was there. I was happy when she worked because I knew there would be a lot less groping on those days, but it still happened.
I thought no one would have believed me if I said anything. Because I needed the job, I put up with it. Unfortunately, I had to stay in that job over a year until finding something else.
At the time, I was in college and didn’t know what to do or whom to tell. Was it somehow my fault? Had I invited his abuse? I know better now.
My fears extended to walking to the bathroom because I knew he would be standing outside of the door when I came out. Trying to dodge him every time was difficult. Rarely, I succeeded in escaping. Some days I worked 8-10 hours, so it was impossible to avoid the bathroom. This person terrified me. He had to know I hated it and was afraid. Perhaps that made me more of a target.
I couldn’t escape him even when sleeping. Frequent nightmares were of him groping me. To this day, I get goosebumps thinking about that situation and how horrible it was. How did I endure this?
How many other young women put up with similar predators? Never did I tell anyone at work about this because he was the boss. Who could I tell? Telling his wife was an idea, although I probably would have been fired and branded a liar. Suggesting the boss was a molester would certainly mean not getting a good job reference.
The second situation was while I was a student intern at a local TV station. I worked in the newsroom and loved every minute of that job. Writing news was a dream come true. That was, until my boss asked me to go get him coffee.
He rarely asked me for such a menial task. We didn’t have a coffee maker in the newsroom, even though people guzzled it constantly. I had to go upstairs to the vending machine where the coffee was truly awful. Why anyone wanted it was beyond me.
As I went up the stairway, I was approached by a guy at least twice my age who worked in another department. He cornered me in the otherwise empty stairwell, pushed me into a corner, grabbed my wrists and asked me how I liked being helpless. I think he was about to kiss me when someone entered the stairwell.
I shoved him as hard as I could, heart pounding like a frightened rabbit and ran upstairs to the vending lounge. Terrified to come back down with the coffee, I figured I would just throw it on him if he came at me again. That man assaulted me twice in the same stairwell during the two semesters I spent at that job.
Going up those stairs was so frightening! The second time he cornered me, I said I would scream. With a menacing sneer, he told me to go right ahead. Again, someone unknowingly rescued me by entering the stairwell and I took off running.
I told a woman at the station after the first time. She said, “That guy is harmless.”
I said, “It doesn’t feel harmless to me.”
She replied, “Stop being dramatic. Grow up and stop acting like a kid.” I was about 21 at the time.
Imagine how that felt coming from another young woman!
I’m much older and wiser now. No way would I take that these days. At the time, I didn’t know how to get out of the situation.
If you are reading this and it happens to you, please tell someone. If that person doesn’t listen, tell another person or human resources. Don’t just take it like I did. Times are, hopefully, different now. Although I wonder, because these things keep happening as reported by the media.
If you are in a position of power, I hope you never take advantage of a young employee the way these men did to me. Who knows what kind of scars something like this leaves behind?