As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve struggled with understanding my personal boundaries. I feel this has caused me to become victim to certain advances that wouldn’t be tolerated by a normal, healthy person.
The Me Too movement has further helped me understand this feeling. Hearing the stories of other victimized women makes me wish I had spoken out against my experiences when I could have affected a change. Despite my missed opportunity to change the environment in which I was working at the time, I know I have space to put my experiences down here.
A few years ago, I worked in a corporate role in which one of my main tasks was to generate contracts for salespeople. The contracts varied in length but were over 100-pages long at times. My team and I totaled 3-5 people which varied on the year because of turnover. We were expected to generate an average of 30 contracts each, per day, but it could get upwards of 50 in which case we would fall behind on other duties and end up staying late. This role acquainted myself and most coworkers with people across departments because we often required special pricing approvals to proceed with generating contracts. In doing so I made friends, but was also made a victim.
Via a friendship with a sales representative, I came to know a director on the marketing team. There was something about this director that didn’t sit well with me upon our meeting. He often appeared to leer at myself and other women in my department which made me feel uncomfortable, but part of me suspected that because he was culturally different than I (he was raised outside of the United States) I might have been misinterpreting something. After being out with him one time with the sales rep and a couple of my other mixed colleagues was when his persistent directed harassment began.
He began by asking my colleague and I to lunch. We agreed to go, but in private she and I agreed we’d only go together. We got through lunch with some leering but no commentary. Then, on the drive back in which we had all carpooled in his car, the subject of hairstyle came up. He said something to the effect of, “I like a woman’s hair short, like a young boy.” At the time, I had short hair and I was instantly quite disturbed by his comment. My colleague laughed, which instigated my laughter too and somewhat calmed me.
Days after that lunch, that same colleague and I were approached by him multiple times for lunch and dinner. We accepted because we thought we were being treated. We seemed to talk about work a good amount of the time, and he paid for our meals during those dinners (probably expensing them). At one dinner he even took us to a fancy steak restaurant. The last dinner we had with him was an offending one, however. Quite out of the blue while I sat at the table next to my colleague, the director brought up the subjects of his wife’s acceptance to open their relationship and also erotic asphyxiation. Shortly after that subject, my colleague and I excused ourselves to the bathroom. We were both in shock, but she seemed calm which appeased me. Though she didn’t want to take the subject of conversation any further, she also didn’t seem to take offense to the subject to the degree in which she wanted to talk to human resources about him.
After that dinner he continued to approach us to accompany him for meals, but we politely rejected saying that we were busy. The asking occurred every time he came across us in the building, but we were persistent in our response. Just persistent asking like that may even be perceived as harassment, but my colleague and I let it alone.
One evening, while working late, I heard footsteps enter the area in which my cubicle was located. I peered up to see who it was over the cubicle wall, and it was the director.
He said he was hoping another person in contracts might be around, but I was the only one there. We made small talk, then he said, “You need to tell me when you are available to have a meal.” I told him I was busy and must have postured myself in a way that expressed discomfort which prompted him to question whether something was wrong. At the time I blamed it on my shoulder (I had been experiencing shoulder pain during that time), and he suggested he would massage it. I politely declined and he insisted. I don’t know how long the touching occurred, but each second was as shameful as the next. I went home soon after feeling so disgusted and also fearing for my job and life.
If ever a boundary was crossed, that was definitely a huge one. First rule in communication among employees–never put your hands on anyone for any reason. After that incident, I stayed as far away from him as I possibly could. If I heard his voice down the hallway, I’d go out of my way to rush in the other direction and hid to the bathroom. I worked at that company for at least 5 years after the incident and he’s still there. It pains me that he may be preying on other naive victims who are too afraid to speak against him. He’s also received promotions since the incident and has an even higher rank of power in the company than he did when he was harassing me.
I have since left the company to pursue other goals. A year after I left, he called my personal cellphone and left a voicemail, asking to call him back so we could catch up. I have since blocked him on my phone and on all sources of social media. I’m now certain enough about my experience and self-worth to know that what he did was wrong and exploitative, and that because of his position of power he should especially not have put myself or my colleague in the situation he kept pursuing.
If there’s any deeper message I can convey to anyone in a similar situation reading this post, please let it be that you did nothing bring this upon yourself. You don’t deserve this treatment, not matter what was said or done before.
May good things come to you always.