Sexual harassment is real and does suck.

In college, the married man who sat across from me at the student newspaper would make unwelcome comments about how I should be a model, and how pretty my eyes were and just how dang good I looked in blue. And then he would constantly stare at me, for inappropriately long amounts of times.

Then, in grad school, a security guard at the state capitol building decided he liked me. He would come up to me every day and ask me for my phone number, or ask me on a date. Every day. And going to my internship at the best building in Illinois suddenly made me want to throw up as I tried to avoid him while going through security. Every. Day.

Then, at a newspaper job I had after college, I was just one of the 20-something women who had to endure being hit on by a married editor at the newspaper. And one night, the two of us ended up in a car alone together, because he was drunk and convinced me he needed a ride, and then he tried to kiss me and then the next day, I had to work with him like nothing had ever happened.  Which I did, because saying something would have been worse. I knew that much.

All of those incidents left marks on my weak heart. They made me feel like an object in the purest sense of the word. And they led me to believe that women were not equals. Not even close.

I understand that men don’t always know they’re being inappropriate.

I understand that women like to be hit on.

I understand that people think being hit on too much is a “good problem” and that women should just brush it off.

But I also understand how sick to your stomach it makes you feel when you realize that politely saying no to someone’s advances is being ignored — or worse, that a polite advance has suddenly become less-than-polite without warning.

I understand that sexual harassment is not about a women’s ability to properly take a dirty joke or their ability to just be flattered for goodness sake.

I understand that as long as people believe its a fake problem, or a good problem, or a crazy problem, nothing will change.

I understand it because I’ve lived it.

I also understand that reporting it is awful and full of aftermath that leaves everyone, especially myself, wishing I had just kept my mouth shut. And that any women who decides to do so is brave and amazing and should be respected.

So while all the controversy around Herman Cain is in the air, and people are saying things like, “Well, that there is a troubled woman,” I implore you to take this opportunity to remember the women you love, and how you want them to be treated in such cases.

Because, your mom or your sister or your daughter probably feels like throwing up or crying or screaming every time they have to pass by that one guy’s desk or go down that one hallway where he works.

They are probably praying every night that he’ll quit or get fired, and they’re probably starting to find a way to quit themselves.

They’re probably wishing they could fix things without first making a huge mess.

They’re probably looking for someone to save them.

And — most likely — nobody is doing anything about it.

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Comments (5)

  1. Laura

    Thank you.

    I reported sexual harassment once. Not because I felt deeply troubled by what he said, but because I knew it was innappropriate. I wanted it to be on the record should it become a pattern. The ensuing investigation was horrible. The project manager I reported it to was awesome. He wanted to make sure that I was ok, told me that he would take care of it, and made sure that I knew that they did not support the offender. My problem was with HR. They pulled me aside, told me that they would have to do an investigation, and was even accusatory when I made reference to the fact that I didn’t know this man. They wanted to know if I would have made the same claim against a friend. Personally, I feel that if a friend had said what he had, I could have dealt with it, but having a complete stanger in a position of authority took it out of my hands. The investigation itself victimized me more than the actual comments.

    Reply
  2. admin (Post author)

    Laura,
    Thanks for reading. I too went through a horrible reporting process once, and it only drove home to me how important it was to just ignore it. Very sad, indeed.
    — Crystal

    Reply
  3. Virginia Kahler-Anderson, aka HomeRearedChef

    I, too, went through a similar process, of being interrogated and then left feeling like I should have never spoken up. And that is the reason why the first three times it happened to me (a few years earlier, at different job positions), I quit my jobs, rather than embarrass myself! It leaves you feeling like it is your fault. The sad part of it all, I left jobs I really liked.

    As you can see, women are still afraid of speaking openly about it.

    ~Virginia

    Reply
  4. Sue Patterson

    I don’t know you at all. And yet I do.

    Thank you for pointing out what’s still going on. I’m 50, and it seems like we should have found a way to stop this by now. I won’t list all the reasons I think this is still happening. But I will thank you for continuing to shine some light on a variety of aspects of this very dark problem our mothers, sisters, daughters are all facing daily.
    Thank you for writing it so clearly!

    Reply
  5. The Vox @ Mito Vox

    I feel even more relieved reading/hearing someone else talking about being sexually harassed. I’ve experienced it recently and I had a female friend who completely ignored the fact this guy was sexually harassing me because she liked the guy. That feeling of being uncomfortable and wanting to throw up every time he made a pass sure says differently. Thank you for writing this :)

    Reply

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