Recalling instances of harassment, abuse, and assault are not fun. So many people, male and female, have spoken out about things that have happened to them. Others have chosen to take the step of saying ME TOO, without revealing the “how” and that is absolutely their right. I applaud them for being able to say that because these stories are so deeply personal. I cannot and will not speak of certain things because they are still too raw. But the things I can speak to, I will share. And although I really hate writing this…admitting things like this makes me feel weak, I feel I have to.
Did I do something wrong? Was it my fault?
So yesterday I admitted that when I was 16, I was sexually harassed at work. But when I was 20, it went a step further.
Let me start from the beginning…
It was 1998. I was in college and met my roommate through a pairing program. I had this feeling, after talking for twenty minutes, that we’d be a perfect fit. And at first, things were great. She and her boyfriend took to showing me around campus, brought me along to hang with their friends, and overall made an effort to include me. I was grateful because I transferred not knowing many people and their inclusion was appreciated.
It was during this time that I was introduced to their friend. I’ll call him, John Doe2. One night, I went with her to her boyfriend’s house. When I was uncomfortable, I tended to drink a little too much. And that night, I definitely had too many drinks and ended up kissing John Doe2. It was just a kiss. Nothing came of it and I didn’t see him again.
Until months later.
As the months wore on, things began to fracture with my roommate and our common area had become somewhat contentious. We weren’t mean or rude – we simply avoided each other. I was seeing a guy I’d known for a few years and was hanging out with friends who were in my major. Meanwhile, my roommate was spending more and more time with her boyfriend. We just grew apart.
One night, a girlfriend and I came home to my apartment to find a keg in the kitchen area and at least 20 strangers inside. It was loud and chaotic…and dark. My room was closed, but I felt overrun by these uninvited guests. My roommate played it off like it was nothing and I even heard her laughing as my friend and I went into my room to get away so I could calm myself. My friend chatted with me and I called the guy I was dating and told him about the crowd. He and our friends had already planned to come over and hang out with us and would be over in a little. So after some prodding from my friend, I decided that I would try to be hospitable and not a complete bitch to these strangers.
We emerged from my room and sat down on the couch, talking to some of my roommate’s friends. As I was talking, I saw John Doe2 walk in and it was obvious that he was drunk. He could barely stand up, but he saw me and walked over. How he got from point A to point B is a blur, but before I knew it John Doe2 bent down to where I was sitting and began leaning in like he was going to kiss me and then grabbed at my chest. Not only was he groping my breasts, which was bad enough, he was doing in front of people. I was mortified!
This time, unlike when I was 16, I reacted.
I jumped to my feet and pushed him, calling him every expletive I could think of. I was hitting him and telling him he had no right. The room grew silent as all eyes were on me watching as I lost it. They all just stood there.
I was crying as I grabbed my friend’s hand and we went to my room. I could hear the laughter and comments being made behind my back as, once again, I closed my bedroom door. She tried to comfort me, but by that point I was tired and eventually cried myself to sleep.
I don’t know how much time passed, but I woke up to a hand on my leg and I jumped up ready to fight, hands clenched into fists.
But it wasn’t John Doe2. It was Friend #1. He was with the guy I was seeing and when he saw my reaction, he knew something was off. We’d known each other for years and he was one of my closest friends. I didn’t want to tell him what happened because I knew that these three guys, my friends, had tempers. But I was more concerned that they would think I asked for it. Friend #1 and I had a long history of being blunt and honest, so when he prodded for more information I finally gave in. I spoke quietly so only he would hear, but I guess it wasn’t quiet enough because Friend #2 heard and reported it to the guy I was seeing.
His reaction was immediate. He stormed out of my room asking who John Doe2 was and what the hell he was thinking. No one knew where he was. At first, my roommate tried to say that nothing happened. But a couple of her male friends who were there and SAW it for themselves spoke up taking my side. I hurried to the diffuse the situation, but Friend #1 & #2 physically stopped me from interfering. John Doe2 suddenly entered the apartment and it was like slow motion. The guy I was seeing confronted him and John Doe2 tried to deny anything happened. But he didn’t believe him. My word was enough for him…the confirmation from others only angered him more.
He grabbed John Doe2 and threw him against the door and said, “if you ever fucking touch her again, I will fucking kill you.” A few of the party guests stepped in and pleaded with the guys to let John Doe2 go and they’d deal with him. When he released him, the guys got me and my friend to get our things and took us out of that apartment for the night.
While the guy and I didn’t last, our friendship did. To this day, I’m grateful that I had these amazing friends who not only believed me, but stood by me…validated that what was done to me was wrong. There are so many people, male and female, who stay silent when they see things like this happen to others. I’m pleading with you, don’t stay silent and watch it happen. Do something. Please. You have no idea what that means to someone like me.
To answer my earlier questions:
I did NOTHING wrong and it was NOT my fault.