Yesterday I read an article that made me rethink past traumas. This is an #ownvoices #metoo story, but it doesn’t get graphic.
One memory in particular has been haunting me, replaying through my mind of late. My first job contained my first experience of sexual harassment and slut shaming. I have had more than one instance of harassment in the work place BUT thanks to my first, have not reported any others due to fear of retaliation.
During a staff event, a coworker, we’ll call him Aaron (not his real name), touched me inappropriately. With both hands he grabbed my chest and squeezed almost as if he was honking a clown nose. I was so shocked he would do this that I didn’t know what to do. I immediately left and found a male friend of mine and stood next to him because I figured that Aaron would leave me alone if I was standing next to another guy. He did leave me alone for the day.
I did not lead this guy on. I had a boyfriend and he knew it. I didn’t flirt with him. I barely spoke to him. He was barely on my radar. I wore loose fitting clothes that were not revealing. He was just a creep.
I reported it to the manager as soon as he made time for me. The manager flat out said he didn’t believe me and that it was uncharacteristic of Aaron. He said he’d make a general announcement about flirting and physical contact, which he did do.
BUT he then scheduled me to work with Aaron. Right next to him. Aaron kept having issues and crises and I was expected to help him out by myself for long periods of time. He took every opportunity he could to touch me. He never grabbed my chest again but he leaned up against me and otherwise touched me as much as he could. I was terrified. He could have easily overpowered me. I was afraid to confront him, because I wasn’t sure what he’d do. So I ignored it the best I could. I wasn’t sure if arguing with him would be more exciting so I tried to shut him down the best I could.
AND the manager gave me the worst tasks. He singled me out and made my life miserable. While everyone else was at a company party, he pressured me into cleaning toilets because it needed to be done. Yes, it needed to be done, but if a few people had worked late then I would have been able to go. Instead I cleaned toilets for hours by myself. This was not in my normal duties, but I did it without complaining.
He made an excuse why I had to do volunteer and nobody could help me. It was basically along the lines that they needed to relax and blow off steam and I wasn’t as important as them. That was just one task. He found others. The manager did this to punish me, to slut shame me.
With Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, I’ve been thinking about how I wasn’t believed and was put in an unsafe situation. It’s been really upsetting.
There’s a concept in Buddhism that attachments lead to suffering. I’m familiar with it. Not being a practicing Buddhist, though, I haven’t really thought about how it could apply to my life.
A Ladders article titled “The Teflon Mind: How to let go of the past” said:
However, blaming is a two-way street — when we can’t forgive others is because we can’t forgive ourselves too. Others did something wrong but, deep inside, we believe we did something wrong to cause it. When we feel guilty, it becomes harder to move on.
The guilt that the manager made me feel has stuck to me like a nasty residue on a sauté pan. Not just for that instance either. As a teen there was an older creepy man who kept playing with my hair and said multiple times that “if I were to be raped and get pregnant then he’d adopt the baby”. When I spoke with an authority figure in my life about this, it was I who was questioned: what had I been wearing? Nothing immodest or my parents wouldn’t have let me leave the house.
I have felt culpable in some way for Aaron. And for the creepy older guy. And for a worse assault that I keep private because of the pain it caused me.
I have let Aaron’s lasciviousness linger in the recesses of my mind like a film of grease that just wouldn’t come off.
Now I know: I must forgive myself. It wasn’t my fault. I have no control over the actions of others.
And … because of the treatment of the manager when I had worse situations, like that really painful one, occur I was too afraid to come forward. In fact, when I did open up about it, I was shut down and told I should be ashamed of being a victim and not ever speak of it.
I close with: