It’s almost been a year now since my coworker was fired after I reported his harassment and I’m still dealing with the fear and trauma surrounding what happened to me. I didn’t expect it to be in the back of mind still after all this time, but I guess one year really isn’t that much time. If I’m honest, I haven’t thought about this at all until recently. Since my birthday was last week, I feel that is partially contributing to the anxiety I’m feeling about this and why it’s all resurfacing now. This time last year is when everything began to unfold. Everything became so much worse when I turned 18, when I became a legal target.
If you want to know the full story of what happened to me, I shared it on the blog a few months ago and you can find it here, but the things I’m dealing with now are predominantly the emotional aftermath of moving past it.
When I wrote about what happened to me, there were headlines everywhere regarding harassment and assault and there still are. The points I made are still as relevant now as they were when I first wrote about it. Harassment still isn’t being taken seriously and I know that because there are people in my life who blame me for what happened to me and I know I can’t be the only victim being given the blame.
One of my coworkers was good friends with the man who harassed me and believes that I “got him fired.” Even a year later he still resents me for it. We can be civil and professional when we work together, but I know he tries very hard to get under my skin with biting comments to make me feel inferior. It angers me to admit that his tactics work. I’m the kind of person that wants everyone to like me, and even though I knew he felt this way, I never treated him any differently or respected him any less. I knew deep down there was some resentment he had towards me about the whole situation, but we were still pleasant so I didn’t focus on it. It wasn’t until about a month ago one of my coworkers told me he has been talking shit about me to other coworkers for a while now and has made it abundantly clear to them that he does not like me.
This has bothered me more than I thought it would. I knew why he resented me and I tried to be understanding, but it just occurred to me how horribly wrong he is and how messed up his way of thinking about this really is. He doesn’t respect me because he has it in his mind that I was “asking for it” and believes that his friend did nothing wrong, but neither of those statements are even slightly true. I told him “no” several times actually, but history goes to show that when a woman says “no” men still have the tendency to do whatever the fuck they want and that’s a history I’m sick of repeating itself.
I told him “no” several times actually, but history goes to show that when a woman says “no” men still have the tendency to do whatever the fuck they want and that’s a history I’m sick of repeating itself.
If you have a friend, or even know someone that has sexually harassed someone, you can’t stand by them and say nothing of what they’ve done. There is no such thing as “choosing sides” when it comes to sexual harassment. There is only right and wrong.
No means NO. There is no bro code for supporting a friend who harassed someone who did not want it, and I can guarantee you no one wants that. If anything, it’s your responsibility as their bro to let them know what they did was not okay. And under absolutely no circumstances should you EVER blame the victim if your friend ever faces the consequences of their actions. Help them understand what they did wrong, help them learn why it’s an issue, and help them do better. Otherwise you’re only contributing to the problem and are adding just a few more repetitive pages to this never ending history of harassment. Only you can change the narrative.
Let me reiterate: NO ONE wants to be harassed. I feel the need to make that abundantly clear since still many people seem to not understand. Flirting and harassing are two very different things. There is a fine line between these two things, but allow me to enlighten you on the main differences. When someone is flirting, it’s supposed to be a mutual feeling. If you continue to hit on someone and they’re not into it, walk away because you can easily cross the line into harassment. You have to go into flirting with someone by showing them respect. Respect their space, their time, and their right to say “no,” otherwise you’re coming from a place where harassment can be the only result.
Also, I would have thought this would be crystal clear by now, but CONSENT!! You have to have consent. It’s not optional, ever. It’s another seemingly simple concept like respect but yet there are still people out there who don’t seem to get it. Ask them to dance, ask them if you can buy their drink, ask them what they’re comfortable with because you never know. I was violated with a non-consensual hug and kiss, so those are very simple things that make me a bit nervous now, but you wouldn’t know that about me though unless you asked me what I’m comfortable with. If you ask, I know you respect me and then there’s no reason for me to feel the fear I associate with those things anymore when it comes to you. I do realize that it’s also my job to let you know how I’m feeling, I promise that I know girls are complicated enough as is, but it’s a small thing that goes an incredibly long way to make a relationship a million times better.
I know that I still live with the fear of what happened to me. Affection isn’t as easy for me to show, I’m a lot more cynical, I keep all my thoughts bottled up inside, and I am definitely a lot more apprehensive of men in general. I find myself struggling to tell people who are closest to me how much they mean to me, and most days I can’t even show it.
I used to be a touchy-feely person but this has made me more reserved which probably comes off as standoffish, but that’s not how I feel inside. I’m just now starting to work myself out of that. I still blame myself for not seeing how he would manipulate me and coax affection out of me. Its so obvious to me now and I know it wasn’t easy to see then, but I have a hard time reminding myself that. I think that is why it’s so hard for me to be affectionate with people. It may not make perfect sense but I feel like he stole the goodness, that feeling you’re supposed to feel when you’re touched by someone you love, from me when he crossed the line and I’m just now trying to take that feeling back.
At this exact moment I feel a kind of numbness I haven’t felt since the summer. I don’t want to feel numb anymore I want to feel again. I’m sick of being annoyed with the world, feeling uninspired, and blaming myself for things out of my control, so it’s time to get it all off my chest. This whole thing has been haunting me recently more now than ever for at least a hundred different reasons, but the one that really got the ball rolling was when I saw him for the first time in almost a year, and it was as I was leaving a date.
I felt the date went extremely well, and I was really happy afterward. We were sitting outside at a coffee shop and during the date one of my friends went through the drive thru and saw me sitting there and rolled down her window and said hi. This of course was no big deal and actually kind of funny, but when I was pulling out of the shop I saw the man who harassed me pulling into the drive thru and my heart just stopped.
First just due to the immediate reaction of seeing him for the first time in almost a year, but then my mind jumped to what could have happened if I’d still been sitting there on my date when he’d gone through the drive thru. Just thinking about how possessive he had been over me and the million things he could have said or done if he’d seen me there filled me with so much dread and anxiety. It’s definitely shifted more into anger now, only because this fear of him and what he did is still there and controls me more than I thought it did.
It’s something I’m still working through and growing through. Trust has never come easy for me just because it can be so easily broken. I’ve never had the best experiences when I open up to people, but I’ve never lost hope that I will meet people who won’t abuse my trust. I’ve definitely just made it a lot harder on myself to let them in. I’m not good at vocalizing these fears and being vulnerable because that implies trust.
I have a hard time getting out of my own head sometimes, so trusting people is more difficult than it needs to be. My brain has a tendency to overthink, even more so now than it did a year ago. I think that’s partially why I blame myself, for not realizing what was happening to me sooner. Trusting someone is an uphill battle, but one I don’t plan on giving up on any time soon. I believe there are good people out there, but it may take a while for them to find their way to you and into your heart. We live in a world where we can’t afford to give up on finding real, meaningful connections with people. I’ve built up a ginormous wall, but I think I’m finally ready for it to start coming down.
I believe there are good people out there, but it may take a while for them to find their way to you and into your heart.
Step one of this process has been the hardest for me and that is forgiving yourself. What happened to me was not my fault and I know that, but it takes a lot to convince myself of that sometimes. Everything I’ve felt is valid and I know that too, but most days I don’t believe it. But that’s why healing is a process, not something that happens overnight. For me, writing about it, putting my feelings into words, is how I’m able to get myself to a place where I can be vulnerable and grow. By putting my story out there I can only hope someone else benefits from my experience. Whether it maybe helps someone come to terms with their own struggles or allows someone else to create a better understanding of why these issues matter makes it worth it to publish. Everything is about perspective.
You know what harassment looks like and feels like, so what can you do? How can you advocate or be an ally to someone who has been harassed? Talk about it. Saying nothing helps no one. Letting it happen just makes things worse. Speak up and stand by the victims because they are not alone but I promise you it sure does feel like it sometimes.
If you or someone you know is being harassed, please speak up or encourage the person you know to say something. If you have witnessed harassment, report it. You have the power to stop it. If you have been harassed, you are worthy of respect and love. No one deserves the emotional turmoil of harassment. 2019 is almost over and people still don’t know that this isn’t okay. It’s affected my relationships, it’s affected my life, and it’s affected how I see myself. I wouldn’t wish the way this has made me feel on even my worst enemies. No one deserves to feel like this.
Speak up, share your story, advocate for yourself (Even though I know that’s not always easy, believe me), and don’t ever forget your own personal worth. You matter so freaking much. I know from experience for a fact you probably don’t believe that right now, but I promise you it’s true.
You matter so freaking much. I know from experience for a fact that you probably don’t believe that right now, but I promise you it’s true.
I honestly can’t say it any better than I did in my first post on this: It doesn’t matter if you think you’re overreacting, or that maybe you’re just reading too far into it. That’s how I felt, and once I put all the pieces together, I realized what was happening to me. It’s hard to admit, and it’s scary, but if you feel violated or uncomfortable, speak up. Your feelings are valid and you can’t ignore them. You deserve better. Please don’t be afraid to be heard.
Stay safe out there and don’t be afraid to get angry. Turn that spark into a light and use that fire to share your story. You deserve to be heard.