In the last couple weeks and months brave women have come forward speaking out about sexual harassment and sexual assaults they endured by men in power positions. Some of the men accused surprised me, most not. Really shouldn’t be surprised at all, it’s such an epidemic. And not just in Hollywood or with politicians, it’s in all walks of life. When I think of the damage done, to the victims, their wives and families hammered by these disclosures, it makes me sad and sick to my stomach. Today, I’m jumping into the discussion about the sexual abuse, harassment, and intimidation that goes on in and out of the workplace. It has happened to me in two different jobs, many years ago.
The first was in my 20’s working at a real estate office. The owner was a very outgoing man and the office, in general, was a jovial and mostly nice place to work. We all got along great except for a couple very uncomfortable things. One was that my boss, the owner, liked to sit me on his lap. He was married (as was I) and it made me nervous, I didn’t know what I should do. There was also a lot of joking in the office, some funny, some not. The unfunny were the sexual jokes and innuendo that were constant. It was the late 1970’s and Women’s Affirmative Action Programs were in full swing. I remember reading an article about a lawsuit a company lost to a woman who was sexually harassed in her office. The article was helpful in offering guidelines for offices to follow to stay out of trouble. I nervously took the article to my boss to talk to him about what was going on in our office, how uncomfortable it made me feel and how he was at risk. Luckily he was supportive and open to examining how the men in the office should behave more professionally, including himself. With his permission, I photocopied the article and distributed it to everyone in our small office. It shook the men up, they didn’t realize how their behavior made me and the other women feel. We had some good discussions and most of them worked to change their attitudes and behaviors.
The second time, more serious, was when I was assistant to the controller of a midsize company. My married boss thought himself a ladies man and bragged about cheating when his wife was out-of-town. Almost from the beginning of working there, he tried to get me to have an affair with him. I would reject him and tried to make light of it because I needed my job. After a while, when he became frustrated with my rejections, he turned his attention to a co-worker. He tried his best to get me to quit and, when I refused to quit, he tried to fire me. I immediately went the owners of the company and told them what was going on. They brought in the company lawyer who ended up firing this abusive man from his job.
I was young and naïve but knew what was happening to me was wrong.
I was also lucky in that I didn’t feel powerless and was able to take control of both situations. There aren’t many women I know who haven’t had some type of sexual harassment, or worse happen to them. Many women feel too powerless to speak up, stuck in jobs they need to take care of their children and families. In the Psychology Today article, “What To Do If It Happens To You” Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D., gives suggestions on how to proceed if you find yourself in a situation that could go from irritating behavior to criminal.
Lastly, we need to teach our children, boys and girls, to be kind, to be strong and to be truthful. The Golden Rule says it well, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You.” We can lead by example. During a recent Saturday Night Live skit comedian Kate McKinnon said, “Pandora’s Box is open now and she’s pissed!” So men (and women too) who prey, beware, we are not going to be silent about sexual harassment or assault any longer. One of my goals in writing this blog was to get infidelity out of the closet and talk about it in an open, unflinching way. More and more taboo subjects are having the lights turned on and exposed, which is healthy. We don’t need to sweep ANYTHING under the carpet that could trip us up. Truth is the ultimate power and only when it is revealed can we move forward and start to heal. Breath deeply, meditate and be gentle to yourself whatever your journey might be.
Sorry for the diversion, I felt a strong need to write about this. My next post will continue with my journey to find peace, happiness and zen.
Till Next Time…
Peace & Love ~