I think the worst thing about my most recent experience of sexual harassment was the shock.
I mean, I was literally just sitting there.
I thought we were talking about a report.
Until the words rang out in the air: “I think that you should lay it out like a Playboy.”
Before that my colleague noticed something a bit off in the superior’s behavior.
“You should be looking at her, not me,” he said. “After all, it’s her report.”
I noticed that I was getting yelled at quite a lot, but I thought maybe it’s because I’m annoying.
After the comment, I was literally stunned.
I stumbled out into the hallway, and, one at a time, I told people.
Nobody suggested I report it.
I, myself, had no desire for any trouble.
The injustice of it all burned in my cheeks, in my ears. It coursed throughout my entire body.
A couple of weeks went by and I still had to work on the report.
One day I received an email.
It contained a message highly critical of my work thus far.
Again I felt the anger.
It felt like some other agenda was at work.
I called a meeting, with the executive and my immediate supervisor, a positive and supportive person.
All throughout the room, on my desk, and on the side tables, I put down pieces of the report, critical content and the comments I had received, and planned to discuss this document one page at a time, if necessary.
I sat down at my desk, which was larger than usual for my pay grade.
Across from me sat the supportive supervisor and the executive who had made the disgraceful remark.
So many papers. So much material to go through.
I could feel the anger rising in me.
It was unstoppable, now.
It was going through the roof of my brain.
The executive, perhaps unsatisfied with his earlier stupidity or perhaps the victim of amnesia, opened his mouth and I could see he was about to berate me.
At which I said, “I’m so sorry, sir, but as you know I am simple-minded. All I can recall is that you said to lay it out like a Playboy.”
The supportive supervisor looked at me in shock.
The executive who had made the remark turned beet-red. “Did I say that?” Emphasis on “I” and “that.”
“Yes, sir, you did.”
Needless to say, that job was over, though I tried as best I could to simply carry on, and none of us ever mentioned the incident in question again. And no, I was neither mistreated nor harassed after that.
When the job was over, I walked away with zero fanfare, they threw me a goodbye party, I thanked the executive in question for the opportunity.
And that, as they say, was that.
If you want to know why victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, molestation and rape cannot simply “get over it,” it’s because they keep hearing those words in their heads: “Isn’t it enough already? Can’t you just go on?”
My own, fortunately minimal experiences, have led me to understand that many others are going through much worse things. Male and female. Too often, as boys and girls.
It hurts a lot to speak up. It’s painful. It’s inconvenient. It takes time away from things we’d rather focus on.
But it’s a necessary part of healing. It’s the only way to get better.
And hearing from you helps other people as well.
Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal’s own. All rights reserved. Photo by SusuMa via Pixabay.
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