It seems to me that allegations of sexual harassment and/or misconduct are pouring forth in droves these days, resulting in the firing of numerous celebrities: Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, just to name a few. These are the cases that you KNOW about, but what about the ones that you don’t? Cases involving the lesser knowns, people like you and me? I have to admit that I get extremely angry when I read comments where people ask, “why did she wait 20 or 30 years to come forth? Why now?” Let me ask you a question – how do you know that she didn’t attempt to report it before? How do you know that she didn’t tell anyone? How do you know that she didn’t report it and it got swept under the rug and ignored? It must be nice for narrow minded people such as these to sit in their ivory towers and pass judgment upon people and cases that they have absolutely no inside knowledge of. And without knowing the facts, everything else is just speculation and opinion.
Let me tell you something people – these types of allegations are predominantly word against word and almost impossible to prove. I mean, it’s not like the one doing the harassing will misbehave sexually in front of an audience. But just because there weren’t any witnesses doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!! There’s also a huge difference between sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Don’t think so? I’ll prove it. Joe Blow tells a dirty joke of a sexual nature at the office in mixed company and laughs because he thinks it’s funny, although the ones listening didn’t find it quite as humorous as Joe did – that’s sexual misconduct. Joe Blow makes unwanted passes at women, i.e. patting her on the butt, cornering her, making sexual remarks to her, caressing her arm while he talks to her, telling her she has a nice rack – that’s sexual harassment. Joe Blow forces himself on a woman and rapes her – that’s sexual abuse. Keeping that in mind, do you REALLY think the same discipline should be dealt across the board for all three offenses? Should the one telling dirty jokes serve time in prison like the rapist will? They should ALL most certainly be reprimanded for their offenses, but certainly not on the same level. I don’t condone ANY of it on ANY level. I do, however, believe in fairness. And another thing that really angers me is when comments such as “look at her! You don’t honestly believe anyone would make a sexual advance on her, do you?” Are you freaking kidding me?????? Looks have NOTHING to do with it. Neither does the color of hair, or eyes, or a physique. It’s all about power and control – nothing more.
Coming forward with allegations isn’t always cut and dry – and it certainly is NOT an easy thing to do, especially when that allegation is against someone with power and authority whose retaliation against the accuser could result in ruining a life, smearing a reputation, losing a job, or just overall annihilation of the accuser. Anyone who says, “why didn’t they say anything sooner?” has obviously never been a victim! The only way I know how to completely get my point across is to tell you my stories – one of sexual abuse and one of sexual harassment. Then you tell me how easy YOU think it is to come forward.
I was only 9 years old when I first became a victim of sexual abuse. I will NOT go into details and I also will NOT mention names. God knows it happened, I know it happened, and he knew it happened – time after time after time. Did I say anything to anyone? No. Why? Because when threats are made to a 9-year-old, they are VERY real and it’s scary. As a matter of fact, I was a grown woman with children of my own when I finally told my mom about it. In other words, I didn’t speak of it for nearly 30 years!!! But I thought about it – a lot! Those are the kinds of memories that will forever be etched into your mind and you will NEVER forget about it. If I saw that person around town, I avoided him at all costs. I couldn’t even stand to look at him, much less speak to him. He made me purely sick to my stomach, and every time I saw him, my mind was flooded with memories of what he had done to me. I guess it’s safe to say that I hated him – and I use that word carefully because hate is not a natural emotion for me. And I’ll tell you something else – I never forgave him, either. And if the time comes that I have to take that issue up with God, then so be it. I simply cannot forgive him. Furthermore, I won’t.
Now, let’s flash forward to my adulthood and talk about sexual harassment on the job. I had a boss that was attracted to me. I knew that, but did not feed into it. By that, I mean I was always professional, didn’t flirt, didn’t dress provocatively, etc. It was subtle at first, telling me how nice I looked, how pretty I was, how beautiful my eyes were. My only comment was “thank you.” And I would always leave it at that. But then it started to intensify and happened more and more often. He would call me to his office to take memos and as I sat in the chair beside his desk, he would proceed to push his chair backward, cock his head and try to look up my skirt. That happened so often that I totally quit wearing dresses to work. And more than once I was invited to meet him in a hotel room – and it wasn’t to take dictation!! Did I say anything to anyone? Yes, I did. I reported it to our supervisor. His response? “Oh, he doesn’t mean anything by that! That’s just his personality. Don’t make a big deal out of it.” Okay, sure, no problem. But it didn’t stop, and considering the answer I’d already gotten, what good would it have done to stir the pot? I would have been the one who got the rotten side of the apple. He was their golden boy and in their eyes, he could do no wrong. To go up against him and make those kinds of allegations would have backfired against me. Nothing would have been done and I would have had to face him every single day that I went to work and be subjected to whatever type of retaliation he felt like dishing out on me. So I did the only thing I knew to do – I began documenting. Everything. Everything he said to me, every advance he made, every suggestion, and I kept it in a notebook locked away in a safe place, just in case I ever needed to use it. You know the old adage, “prove it?” I had documentation that I had written, but no witnesses. I was relieved when he was transferred and I didn’t have to put up with that every single day. But I kept the notebook for insurance.
So you see, it’s not easy to come forward with those types of accusations, and I really wish people would think more carefully before making hateful comments. “If I didn’t see it happen, then it didn’t happen,” seems to be the mindset of the majority. Well, I’ve got news for you. I didn’t see Mount St. Helens erupt either, but I KNOW it happened.
I give a round of applause to these women for their strength and bravery. Instead of bashing them and calling them liars, we should show them support and stand behind them. The bottom line is this – NONE of us know whether or not they’re telling the truth because NONE of us were there. But just because we didn’t actually witness the crime doesn’t mean it didn’t occur. There were no witnesses to what happened to me, either, but it most definitely happened. And stop saying, “well if it was me, I would have done so and so.” The truth is, you don’t know what you would or wouldn’t do until you’re put into that situation, so don’t judge until you are.
Until next time….
Take care and God bless!!