One year later.

One year later.

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.

I was harassed by a coworker.

I was harassed by a coworker.

I had just turned eighteen when I realized I was being sexually harassed by a coworker, which believe it or not was just a few months ago.

He was old enough to be my grandfather, and up until I turned eighteen it had never seemed like anything other than a fatherly affection towards me. Shortly after I turned eighteen, I realized that he was being very forward. I was so scared to go work, I was uncomfortable, and most of all I was unhappy.

No one wants to have to look at the schedule and fear that they may be scheduled to work with someone that may cross a line.

My gut instincts saw this coming. I think that is why I had such a hard time moving past it. I knew there was something off, but I considered this man to be a friend, and when you label someone as a friend, your judgement of them is going to be obscured. So for whatever reason, I didn’t see this coming, even though looking back on it now, it seems all too clear.

I worked with this man for two years. I thought he was a friend. He had somehow gained my trust and that was how he was able to abuse it.

He had visited me a few times at work when he knew I was there and he wasn’t scheduled just to see me, or drop off candy or a holiday card. He had always done that for me, the entire time I knew him. I was always his favorite cashier and he made it his mission to spoil me even though I never asked for it. I never realized how strange it was until a little less than a year ago.

I had never noticed before that he did these things and hoped for something from me in return. He stood close by the register almost expecting me to exit and hug him, which I was not always comfortable doing so I did not, but I could tell that he expected something from me, which was probably the only reason why he did these things.

Before I left for Chicago for my eighteenth birthday, he asked me to meet him across the street at a small gift shop after work to give me my birthday gift and help him pick out something for his wife.

I was so incredibly nervous to meet him because it just didn’t seem like a good idea. I had a gut feeling about it. He’d never asked me to meet him outside of work before, but I considered him to be my friend and he wanted to get something for his wife, so I tried not to overthink it.

He gave me my gift and then a hug, one which he held on for just a little too long, making me very uncomfortable and ultimately a little scared. We were in a public place, so I tried not to be too worried, but I was nervous enough to try and think of an escape route in case I wanted to get out of there fast.

He then asked me if I wanted to give him my number before I left for Chicago because he said he just wanted to make sure I had someone to contact if something happened while I was gone. Even though he knew I’m close with my parents and had plenty of people to contact. I told him no, that didn’t feel he needed to have it, that I would be fine, and then I left.

I just thought he was concerned, in a fatherly way, even though after the encounter I began to wonder otherwise.

However the concern left my mind when he signed my birthday card, “from Your Work Dad,” a phrase I coined since I work with a lot of older men who often look out for me. However this man, in particular, looked out for me in a way I never wanted nor expected, and I began to realize it no longer seemed very fatherly.

When I returned from my trip, he asked me if I received his text messages, which seemed weird to me since I did not give him my number.

He told me that he got my number off the staff list in the back, which is only there for managers to contact people if they don’t show up or if someone calls in sick, not to just be taken and used by any employee in the store to contact people for their own agenda.

I did not receive his messages because the number on the list was not correct. I got a new number shortly after getting the job and so the list had my old number. This made me apprehensive because I told him I didn’t want him to have my number and he tried to take it anyways.

No means no. Regardless of the context. It doesn’t mean yes, or maybe yes, or do whatever you want just because you can. I told him I didn’t want him to have my number and he did what he wanted anyways. That is not, and never will be, okay.

Almost a whole month had passed before I remembered that my number on the staff list was still not correct. I didn’t really want to change it in case he tried to take it again, but I also didn’t feel it was fair to the managers for them to not have my real number now that I knew about it. So I changed it.

Almost exactly two weeks later, at midnight on Christmas eve, he texted me and said he wanted to be the first to wish me Merry Christmas.

This sent a chill down my spine. Not only had he tried to take my number once, but he continued to check to see if I had updated it to my current number. Which he then took and decided to wait up and text me at midnight on Christmas eve.

I then decided to talk to my mom about it and tell her what was happening and how I felt. The last thing someone wants to have to talk about on Christmas is that they think a coworker may be crossing the line into harassment. She’s dealt with similar situations in the past, as unfortunately it’s something most young women experience at some point in their lives, and told me to be firm and make sure he understood where we stand, which was only as friends and coworkers.

So I responded the next day and told him I wished him and his wife a Merry Christmas, hoping that by mentioning his wife he would realize I was emphasizing the fact that he’s already married and that I’m not interested and never will be interested. He clearly didn’t pick up on the memo and responded with one of his stupid pet names for me.

I was already pretty nervous for the next time we worked together, but luckily our shifts overlapped only by an hour so I thought everything would be okay.

But it wasn’t. It got so much worse.

He had never, ever treated me differently in front of our other coworkers. He never called me any of his pet names, never made any of his inappropriate jokes, or tried to coax any affection out of me when they were around. I suppose this should’ve been my first clue that he knew what he was doing to me was wrong.

However, that night, before he left, there was a coworker up front at the register talking with us. He is someone I would talk to regularly with and practice Spanish with.

The coworker had recently become aware of this guy’s fascination with me and picked up on the fact that he would get jealous when we would talk at work. I didn’t realize until later that this coworker actually egged him on and essentially provoked him to “mark his territory” on this evening. However the coworker did recognize that this guy could make me a little uncomfortable and tried to stick around whenever he was working as long as possible.

Just as soon as I thought the guy was leaving that evening, he turned and came around the register, stepped inside the small box with me, and told me that he “wasn’t done with me yet” before wrapping his arms around me and kissing me on the side of my head.

I had never before been trapped and violated like that, and I didn’t see it coming. I felt my brain shut down and my entire body clenched out of fear.

I froze. I was so scared and confused. I always felt so safe when other coworkers were around, but he had just done that right in front of someone else.

As he forced his embrace I felt my body tighten and bend away from him, but he didn’t let go and there was something, like a large mass on my chest, preventing me from telling him to stop.

I did not say a word to him after he did that to me, but he left and thought everything was just fine. My coworker’s jaw dropped and he too was unable to say anything.

How crazy it seemed to me that something so seemingly innocent made me feel so terrible and worthless. I wanted to cry and I felt my dinner rise up in my stomach. I can’t imagine what it feels like for women who have had far worse things happen to them.

After he left, my coworker looked at me and told me, “It was written all over your face. You didn’t want that.”

The coworker encouraged me to talk to someone at work about it, preferably a higher up. He offered to even go with me when I said something since he witnessed the whole thing and knew how much this man fussed over me.

Although he egged him on, and caused this to happen, I don’t think he knew that this would be the result and ultimately felt pretty guilty. However, he never did apologize to me.

I thanked him for the support and told him I would think about it, and I seriously did. When I got home, I decided to tell my mom. I had her meet me in my car as I was embarrassed to talk about it in front of my dad. I cried and cried and told her what he’d done.

I was hurt, I was devastated, and I was so so so angry. He always asked me about my love life, interfered with any relationships I had with guys my age at work, and told me he thought I needed an older guy to take care of me, but I never realized what he meant until this moment.

I decided to talk to my female manager about it and my mom went with me. She’s very easy to talk to, so I asked if we could meet her outside of work to talk in person.

I think the most confusing part to me looking back on it now was that I was worried about him losing his job. I wanted him to stop, but I didn’t want him to get fired. Part of me still wanted to think that maybe he just didn’t understand, and he thought this is how you treat your children or people you consider to be like your children. Since he never had any of his own, maybe he didn’t realize he made me feel this way.

But I also knew that if I told him I wanted him to stop, he would laugh and probably try to hug it out, which was not something I wanted to go through again.

He knew he had power over me, there’s no denying that. It was evident in the sexist jokes, and the inappropriate, degrading comments he made to me. He thought they were hilarious. They made me feel powerless.

I love my job, and I love the people I work with. We are quite literally a tight-knit family and I usually look forward to going to work, but this just ruined it for me and I knew it needed to stop. I even considered quitting my job. I didn’t want to dread working with someone or to have to frantically check the schedule each week and hope we were working on separate days. I also was the oldest cashier at my job and I never wanted any of the other younger girls to feel this way or ever have to go through this.

So I did what I needed to do.

I told my manager everything. My manger, my mother, and I sat in the room and just cried. She told me that she felt that someone like that doesn’t belong in our work family and I completely understood what she meant.

As a woman, she knew what this felt like, and has had her fair share of harassment. In the world we live in, it’s just a part of being a woman.

It hurt me to see the pain on her face from knowing that someone they hired could do that. I felt such pain talking about it, but I think it was my mother’s pain that hurt me the most. The tears streamed down her face as I told my manager every last detail of what had been taking place over the last few months. She understood what it meant.

My manager promised that she would take it up with one of the owners the next day and let me know what he decided. She thanked me for speaking up.

I saw her the next day when I went to pick up my paycheck, and she told me that our owner was beyond freaked out by the incident and that he would terminate the guy next time he came into work. Our owner felt so strongly about it that he came in on a day he was usually off just to make sure he was let go immediately after learning about what he had done.

He didn’t want him to stick around any longer in case there was a chance of him making anyone else feel the way I did and I will always be grateful for how promptly he acted.

After everything seemed to be resolved, my mom joked “If you weren’t so cute maybe this wouldn’t happen to you!” which I understood that she said this with the intention of making me laugh, but I began to wonder, why does that matter?

Why did he think he could just take advantage of me? Just because I’m cute? Is that a justified reason to harass someone? Does that justify violating someone? Why are their boys and men who think this is okay? Why the fuck would anyone think this is okay?

I feel like a common misconception about sexual harassment is that it should be easy for the person being harassed to speak up because they want justice. I know I never understood how someone could even hesitate to speak the truth about what had happened to them, but I understand it now.

While what happened to me seemed like such a simple thing in my head, it was so complex and twisted; it hurt me so much to even think about it, let alone say it out loud.

I knew I did the right thing, but I still felt horrible because you can’t help but think about how your decision to speak up affects the one who hurt you. The guy lost his job over this. Should he have done what he’d done to me or said the things he said to me? Absolutely not, but yet part of me still felt like I was to blame.

While I ultimately did the right thing, and I know that, it took me a while to work myself out of a funk.

No one tells you what to do in these situations. There’s no handbook on dealing with sexual harassment that says “If you feel like shit you’re doing it right.”

The days before and after I revealed what happened went by minute by minute. I counted down the minutes until I was to meet with my manager. I counted down the minutes until he was to show up for his shift, and was to be let go. I counted down the minutes until the next shift I would return to work. Each minute felt like a lifetime.

The only way I could see it in my head was that I was the girl who got him fired. He was so nice and pleasant with everyone we worked with. For awhile I actually felt bad for speaking up. I wondered if he didn’t mean to make me feel the way I did, but I know now that he knew. There is physically no way he could have not known.

Even weeks after it was all over and I tried to convince myself I was over it, I quickly realized I wasn’t when someone mentioned his name to me, I felt my blood pressure rise and my heart rate increase out of fear that I would see him somewhere in public, worse yet that he would want answers.

Eventually, all my coworkers found out what happened. Of course, I knew this would happen. When someone gets let go, everyone wants to know why, and they’ll find out one way or another. The truth, or some version of the truth. Almost all of them were sympathetic and felt the need to say something to me. They all had liked our coworker, but each one reassured me that what he did to me was wrong and that I did the right thing. Some of them even saw this coming saying before they even knew “He probably got fired for harassing someone.”

I had learned that he had asked for the numbers of some of my other teen coworkers and made them feel uncomfortable too. He never got the chance to cross the line with them, and because of me he never will.

Months after the fact, he still comes into the store from time to time. He checks out in the back to avoid the cashiers up front. My coworkers say he’s hoping that he’ll be offered his job back. My boss has already said that won’t be happening ever. He said that it just can’t happen, and he will never lose my respect for that decision.

I believe in forgiveness, but it’s impossible to ignore something that affects the safety of your staff when running a successful business. You just can’t ignore it and you have to act accordingly.

Now that he’s been gone for a few months. I have to admit I feel so relieved. I felt so terrible about him leaving, but I can’t help but admit I feel so much better now that he’s gone.

While I still felt like I was to blame for something, even though I couldn’t exactly figure out what for, I knew this:

I didn’t get him fired, his actions did. The only one who got him fired was himself.

The only thing he didn’t plan on was getting caught. He should have never treated me the way he did, regardless of his intentions. Friends don’t do that to friends, and coworkers especially don’t do that to coworkers.

In the world we live in, things like this are always bound to happen. This may have been the first time this happened to me, but unfortunately, it will probably not be the last. Harassment is unbelievably common even though there’s no excuse for it.

We must educate others. We must make people aware of the reality of sexual harassment, we’ve got to stop making jokes, and we have to encourage those affected to speak up. Witnesses can speak up too, if you see something say something. This has to stop.

I hope that by sharing my story, and my personal experience, it may encourage someone else out there to say something. 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.