In the wake of Hurricane Harvey (Weinstein), we are hearing more and more about acts of sexual harassment in Hollywood. However, we should not be foolish enough to think that these horrible acts are limited to the entertainment industry because sadly, they’re happening in schools, too.
As an educator, I can say that I have experienced at least three counts of sexual harassment in the workplace. The first time, I think I was caught off guard and didn’t really understand what was going on. I minimized the advances and told myself, “That wasn’t really aggressive so no need to make a big deal out of it.”
I rationalized the behavior because since education is a female dominated profession, it was “to be expected” that a man could say something a little inappropriate—even when I did not want or welcome the comments. I justified it by thinking, “Well here he is a man surrounded by all these woman maybe that’s just ‘how he is.’”
The next time this happened, it dawned on me that this was completely unacceptable! I felt dirty—like I’d asked for this man to make such advances. And these advances were more than “innocent little gestures,” they were bold acts that couldn’t be qualified as anything less than offensive, intrusive and unwanted.
I could no longer justify his behaviors and I’d quickly come to realize the power and control those actions had over me. As a result, my work suffered and I’d become withdrawn. I became consumed with what others were thinking or saying. I was paranoid and hesitant to take on certain projects, fearing being left alone with this person.
I began to wonder, “Why me?” What about me said it was okay to talk or treat me like this? I told myself that it was my fault because I wear dresses all the time and asked a lot of questions—I must have drawn attention to myself in some way. I also wondered if my eagerness to learn was misread as a welcome for these sexual advances. I know these behaviors were wrong but yet, I remained silent.
While I did not confront my offender, I am empowered to share this story with you.
I share this story with you to say that sexual harassment is never okay! I urge you to not allow the fear of being reprimanded or black-balled or stifled as an excuse to be a victim of such heinous acts.
I allowed my fear of being black-balled to keep my quiet. I was scared that I would be labeled as the young girl who couldn’t take what I’m sure he would say was just a joke. But now, I’m speaking out. And I share my story as a way to overcome my fears and assure you that you have in no way asked for that type of treatment, nor do you deserved to be sexually harassed.
Let’s get comfortable having these uncomfortable conversations and end sexual harassment altogether! I humbly submit my story in hopes that it will motivate you to sound the alarm on sexual harassment.