Sexual harassment: A discussion the nation must have now

Listen to this article

With all that is going on involving sexual harassment, I had so many unanswered questions. Why are they waiting years and why now? How can it happen without speaking a word to friends, family or even the police?

I started thinking about my experiences and why I reacted the way I did. Then I was shocked to think, experiences? More than one? Is that the norm? I decided to find out.

I sent text messages, emails, phone calls and even stopped women in the office hallway. Has it happened to you? What did you do about it and why? Some women didn’t respond, some described what happened and some needed to think about it before coming forward verbally or in writing.

After talking to women from different walks of life, I thought the old claims must come out with the confidence these women gain when they see others coming forward. Strength in numbers. Cleansing. Relief. You don’t have to be in the entertainment field, a Democrat, a Republican or even a woman.

I will spare the survivors the details. Some were verbally harassed while others were violently abused and everything in between. I do want to let you know most importantly how they felt then and now from their own words. It might help us to understand why victims react the way they do.

Having the officer take you by the arm and walk you over face to face with him sitting in the back of the police car so that you can say, “Yes, that’s him.” Then later, a detective calls to say the guy showed up in court with his wife and they claim it was his first time and he won’t do it again. “I only called the police because I was afraid he would do it to someone else…and he just walked.”

16 years old, first job, first day and alone with an older man who did this. “I ran out of there. Too scared and couldn’t tell anyone, I just wanted to forget it. It still makes me feel weird.”

“When you are nine years old and a trusted family member says not to tell, why wouldn’t you trust him?” Only nine years old!

Major airline, 30+ years ago. Two-year review where corporate manager required removal of clothing. Lost job with refusal. “Found a better career and moved on.”

At a party and a man catches you in a quiet area. He throws you against the wall and painfully smashes a wet kiss while groping your body parts. “I was just thankful to get away.” “He was married, I was married. So I couldn’t make a scene. My husband would have killed him.” More than a few women had this similar experience.

“Me smiling at you or having eye contact does not mean I want you.”

“It was better to just stay away.”

“It was disgusting and still gives me chills.”

“It was my uncle.”

“It was my daddy.”

“It wasn’t my fault.”

“My mom stopped him.”

“As an adult I know I won’t ever have all of the answers.”

“I always averted my eyes after that and avoided him when I could.”

“I think as women we just feel thankful to have gotten away and moved on with our lives.”

“I never did anything to imply that I was interested.”

“My boss choked me because I always pulled away from his inappropriate touching.”

“He was creepy.”

“Dad was super drunk.”

“I learned the ‘block and turn’.”

“I yelled and yelled but the music was too loud.”

“Never even returned for my paycheck.”

“They got him off of me.”

The reasons for telling or not telling were as different as the women were. Yes, to answer my earlier question, although very sad to say is that more than one experience IS the norm. Not telling anyone is also the norm. Unfortunately, it’s not worth it most times. They are let go to do it again, we don’t want to cause a scene, and we don’t want someone we love to get hurt, too scared to come forward and it’s humiliating…

We believe we were victims but are now survivors. It made us stronger. We were fortunate, it didn’t kill us. We learned how to handle situations differently. We learned who not to have eye contact with and to avoid them as much as possible. We watch our children closer and teach them safe habits.

I only spoke to women but I know men have suffered too, as children and adults.

How did you react? Can you understand why these people reacted the way they did?

From a survivor, “It is what has defined me to be sure. I stand up for what’s right and protect those that I can. I value and admire myself for becoming the strong woman you see before you.”