I haven't thought much about experiencing sexual harassment since the early 90's, I had repressed the memories, but last week's volume of online posts of #MeToo made me think about it and process it all over again. I was particularly moved after I saw a post from my cousin, who lives and works as a lawyer in California and is a wonderful man/father/husband, saying that these posts made him reflect on how he has said/done nothing when witnessing words and actions that should have been questioned, that he will now be more mindful of "being better." Then I remembered in detail what had happened to me...
In the early 1990's, my first job out of college was as an Executive Assistant in an international business/education initiative in Washington, D.C. My work was praised often and I worked days and evenings at networking events with my (male) boss to gain corporate and political support to grow the initiative. One evening after a networking event, my boss insisted on driving me to my car for my own safety and made an unwelcome advance. I asked him to stop and I felt fortunate that he did. The next day, everything I did at work was not good enough, I could see that he was punishing me. I asked if we could put it behind us and he agreed, but his negativity continued and I decided that I had to leave a job that I loved. I went to tell my co-workers that I had to leave, even though I enjoyed working with them, but I did not tell them what had happened, I was too embarrassed. One male co-worker asked me to speak privately with him and asked if my boss had done anything to cause me leaving, reassuring me that he was a lawyer and would keep my comments confidential. I told him what had happened and he told me that he had suspected it and told me that my boss would only hire young females for my position and they ALL left within a very short time of starting -- none of them would say why. My co-worker asked me to file a complaint with the District of Columbia, offering to help me, attending the deposition and helping me find another job immediately. With so much support, I did file a sexual harassment claim.
Within a few months after I left, I was relieved to find out that my former boss was found guilty of his predatory behavior and was fired from his job. I was proud that I had stopped the cycle so that no one else could be his victim, but when I communicated this to people that I knew well and respected, they advised me to not speak of it so that I would not be viewed as "a victim." I had the support and courage to face my aggressor to save others, but society would still look down upon me?
This experience affected me profoundly -- I have focused in my career of over 25 years to change negative societal norms. I am running my own business to help others "be better" by encouraging individuals to grow as positive team members and change leaders. I witnessed first-hand that it only takes one person to start change for the positive.