Way before the Me-Too Movement, women would routinely experience sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace. Unfortunately, sexual harassment in the workplace is one of the most underreported incidents, with many women staying silent to avoid the backlash of shame, judgment and blame.
We are finally empowering women through more public awareness while providing empathy and support for this common occurrence. We must emphasize the importance of believing these women’s complaints and reminding them that they are not alone.
Companies must continue to put policies in place to protect women from these bad actors and negative behaviors. They must have an open-door policy where women can comfortably express their concerns and grievances. This mistrust and betrayal can be devastating to women and must be addressed with complete transparency.
I was a victim of sexual harassment in my workplace. This incident was very traumatic and it happened at a very tender age and vulnerable time. I was a single mom and new employee who was desperate to provide for myself and my daughter. To this day, I get anxious and angry at myself for being victimized.
I questioned myself as to why I wasn’t strong enough to speak up for myself. I wondered whether it was my fault for dressing the way I did. Maybe my pants were too tight? Perhaps my friendliness came off as flirting?
A Caucasian male colleague perpetrated the harassment. It started as friendly compliments but then quickly became sexual in tone. He would come to the office a few times per week and sit there for hours staring at me while I was working. He would openly make comments about all the sexual fantasies he wanted to perform on me. It made me sick to my stomach!
I was vulnerable and desperately needed an income because I was barely scraping by with my salary. I was terrified of the man and afraid that one day he would rape me.
However, the more significant fear was reporting him to management and the company taking his side and terminating me. After all, I had a reputation of being a difficult, unpleasant, and angry black woman. My head was always on the chopping block, and I knew management was looking for any reason to get rid of me. So I suffered in silence for months.
One day while he was performing a sexual act on my water bottle in front of me, another co-worker walked in on him. My colleague started freaking out on him and immediately called head office to report what he saw with this depraved display.
When the vulgar incident was reported to management, I felt like I was being released from prison. It felt like all the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. Management wasted no time calling me to apologize and find out how long this depraved behavior had been going on. They reassured me this was going to be dealt with urgently. Within hours, the administration terminated my harasser.
These lewd occurrences left me feeling worthless, dirty, afraid, and ashamed. I felt weak and unable to stand up for myself. I had no voice and experienced mental distress.
NO woman should ever have to suffer the way I did with fear of termination. The workplace should be a safe haven and a place of comfort. Every woman has the right to respect and protection from sexual misconduct by either a co-worker or management.
Do not hesitate to intervene if someone you know is being sexually harassed. Companies should have zero tolerance for such disgusting behavior. An apology can never make up for the torture sexual harassment victims endure. We must put an end to sexual torment in today’s workplace.