I’m not famous.
Dylan Farrow is right. Why should a situation of blatant sexual abuse ever be ignored? In a recent article she writes, “It is also our collective choice to see simple situations as complicated and obvious conclusions as a matter of ‘who can say’?”
It’s not complicated. Sexual harassment, abuse, violence and unwanted aggression is wrong. It’s not complicated.
So #WhatAboutMe? or more simply stated – what about all of the average American women who aren’t famous, who have been victims of this kind of abuse, have reported it, and have had no justice? Our complaints have been swept under the table. We aren’t going to be able to embarrass our perpetrator via the national media, because just as no one cared when we reported it, no one will care now.
When recently reading about Harvey Weinstein’s “complicity machine” it was pretty shocking to see the lengths this predator and abuser was able to go to in order to make sure he would never be officially caught and called out on his heinous behaviors. I didn’t think about it much right before bed that night, but I woke up several times during the night with the shock of the stories in my subconscious mind. I realized after I woke up in the morning to start my day why this stuck.
It’s true, almost any woman who is in the workforce or has an average amount of social interactions has experienced some form of unwanted sexual aggression. The behaviors women endure range from unwanted advances to violent sexual assault and rape. The long time problem has been silence, and acceptance of the phenomenon as normal.
At first, knowing that so many women and witnesses kept quiet for so many years, I felt disgusted. Yet, after seeing how Weinstein’s mob boss-like way of protecting himself scared people into silence, I’m both disgusted by him and by the enablers and accomplices, and even more compassionate toward the people who were too afraid to come forward. But mostly, I feel that my own sense of helplessness when facing retaliation any time I complained about the issue is somehow validated.
At first, I thought I was being paranoid when I reported inappropriate touching at my job, which happened on camera, and not only did the person get away with it with no consequences, the HR person handling the issue retaliated against me. I was working for a huge well-known company who has the budget to do whatever they want.
The person who wrapped his arms around me from behind and pulled me in for an unwanted front-against-my-behind hug was not in a position of authority over me. Months prior to the incident, I’d reported that he’d made harassing comments to me. He was someone who seemed to be obsessed with me and somewhat angry with me. I was in my mid thirties and about to be promoted and he was going on 70. He also wasn’t an asset to the market I was working in. He could have easily been let go or suspended and it wouldn’t have affected anything.
After two months of waiting for some kind of decision, the decision was to let it go because he felt bad and told the people reviewing my case that he thought we were friends. That was that. A few days later the same HR person confronted me as if on a power trip about my nose ring in front of my staff. I’d already spoken to my direct supervisor months earlier and we’d come to an agreement on why this was not a breach of the dress-code policy. Sound ridiculous yet?
This is what we women go through. Yet, one of the most frustrating points in this (one of about a dozen incidents of unwanted aggression throughout my life), is that the HR person is female and claimed she could relate because she once had a stalker.
This is why those of us who aren’t famous have no way to expose the perpetrators in our lives and we have no way to get any kind of justice. We also (just like the celebrities) move around from job to job never being fully supported in our work and feeling ‘less than’ compared to anyone willing to do what it takes to climb the ladder. Those in higher positions are mostly male, and the women who make it that far have usually accepted the injustices and want the promotion regardless of the unethical things that go on in the corporate environment.
No one is safe, yet most of us will never get to at least embarrass our abusers with national, or even local, news stories.
It may seem like things are changing. Yet, for the average American, it’s very unlikely to change because we’re still working in situations where our complaints will be shut down and will not go beyond the walls of the corporate offices. For all of us in the workforce, not just women, we can’t afford for this spurt of media coverage about sexual harassment to be just another media trend.
And with that in mind the bigger question is – Why was the media hiding all of this while harboring so many perpetrators all this time? Why is the media choosing to make this public knowledge now? And who in the media chooses? And where will it lead?