When I was seven or eight, I’d heard a new word – sexual harassment – on the television and didn’t know what it meant, so I asked my dad.
“It’s something women do to get attention,” he replied.
I was young and I believed my dad’s explanation until I became the woman who was being sexually harassed.
Ironically, my first encounter with sexual harassment would come from one of my father’s employees – a physician who, as it later came out, had a long record of inappropriate behavior with women.
The “trusted” doctor came into my place of work, said he wanted to hire me to teach his son to ride horses, took down my phone number, and spent the weeks that followed sexting me and stalking me on my route to and from work.
What’d the organization do? Same thing they did with all the other sexual harassment complaints against this doctor – nothing effective.
I ended up quitting my job, changing my phone number (multiple times), and moving an hour away just to get the harassment to stop.
Just another Sexual Assault?
My senior year in college, I seemed to have the whole world at my feet. I had good grades, an impressive competitive horse riding record, and was in the process of applying to graduate school.
The week my grad school applications were scheduled to go out, I was sexually assaulted at a horseriding event. The days that followed are still very much a blur. I talked to counselors, doctors, and friends, and took what seemed like a hundred showers.
The culture in which I was raised preached that the only people that got raped were girls that “asked for it”; but I hadn’t “asked for it”.I was sexually assaulted. No one cared. He got away with it. (Unfortunately) not a new story. Click To Tweet
While I told dozens of people – clergy, law enforcement, professors – what had happened, the guy that assaulted me went on to enjoy a successful rodeo career, while I ended up swallowing the entire bottle of anxiety/depression medication (legally prescribed to me with no physician follow-up), praying to God that I wouldn’t wake up.
But, that’s not really a new story.
Sexual Harassment: When will it end?
I’ve encountered multiple other sexual harassment incidents within the modern workplace, like:
- The federal agency director that tried to put his hand up my shirt, while whispering “I know you’re married, but…” during an annual industry conference.
- The undergraduate professor that spent multiple semesters playing “strip biochemistry” with the few female students in his classes before administration (finally) removed him from teaching staff.
- The veteran nonprofit director that responded to my company’s pitch presentation with, “Come back to my house and show me how much you really want this contract”.
- The graduate school dean that shrugged off multiple sexual harassment reports from myself and other students focused on one professor as “You’re overreacting – he’s just southern and southern men are touchy”.
- The ad agency exec that grabbed my ass during a networking event while he handed me his card, winked, and said: “Spending some time with me could do wonders for your career”.
After each demeaning encounter, I told myself, “It’ll end soon. Eventually, I’ll have enough education, enough tenure, and enough resources to make it stop.”
But, it never stopped.After each demeaning encounter, I told myself, “It’ll end soon. Click To Tweet
I’m a twenty-nine-year-old highly educated college professor and marketing consultant.
My contacts list could double as an industry Who’s Who and my client list filled with national organizations is impressive. I’ve been repeatedly ranked as one of the internet’s top millennial influencers, and have had articles published worldwide; yet, I, like millions of other professionals, still encounter sexual harassment within the workplace on a regular basis.
No matter how much social capital I develop, how many degrees I complete, or how many assets to my name, I continue to encounter sexual harassment.
When will it end?
Will #MeToo drive much-needed change?
When #MeToo posts started flooding my feed, I experienced a sense of relief that I wasn’t alone, followed by feelings of solidarity with my brothers and sisters that have experienced the horrors of sexual assault and harassment.
Then, the panic set in. “Holy sh*t!!!!” I thought, “It’s everywhere”. Every industry, every location, every job description appears to be a conducive environment for both sexual assault and harassment under current policies.
Just type the hashtag #MeToo in your social search box and see what comes up. We cannot ignore this.
I shudder to think of my daughter or son entering the higher learning systems and workplaces that fail to prevent what I’ve experienced. While I cannot do anything about what has happened to me, I can do my best to drive action that will promote cultural and legislative change in hopes the next generation will not have to deal with the destructive aftermath of sexual assault or harassment.
As a society, we have the power to dismantle the rape culture we’ve established, dispel victim-blaming myths that protect criminals, and cultivate a sexual assault and harassment-free world.
Will we do it?We have the power to dismantle rape culture. Will we do it? Click To Tweet
Take action against Sexual Assault and Harassment:
Over half a million #MeToo posts have been shared on Twitter in the past 24 hours.
Sexual assault and harassment is a wide-spread, incredibly perverse theme throughout our current American culture. We need to do more than comment on a social post with sad face emoji. It’s time we looked the realities of rape culture square in the face and took action to ensure our children have a safe, assault-free world to live in.
Here are four ways you can take action against sexual assault and harassment TODAY:
- Learn your rights and educate yourself on what constitutes sexual harassment within United States workplaces. Need a place to start? Check out the AAUW’s online guide.
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)’s resources were my post-assault lifeline. If you want to support an organization that’s consistently there for sexual assault and harassment victims, support RAINN at www.rainn.org .
- Contact your elected officials and let them know current administration’s rollback of sexual assault rules under Title IX is not cool. Need your representatives’ contact information? Go to congress.gov .
- Don’t look the other way. Stand up for victims. Enforce zero-tolerance for sexual assault and harassment within your own supported organizations. We all play a role in either enabling or ending rape culture – there’s no neutral ground.