When Sexual Harassment Hits Home
I wouldn’t hurt a fly, but when I heard the story I had a momentary urge to hurt someone.
One of my close friends, a female executive at a technology company, told me about the harassment from a male executive.
The first time he kissed her on the cheek. She felt uncomfortable but thought it was harmless. The second time, in front of other employees, he grabbed her head with both hands and proceeded to – no BS – lick her face. As she stood frozen and horrified, the other employees, including his all-male staff, just laughed.
When my friend shared these details, I could clearly see the stress in her face, hear it in her voice. She was struggling whether or not to tell her male boss, the CEO, about the incidents.
I wasn’t just angry with the perpetrator. There was also his all-male staff. Most of them witnessed his disgusting behavior, but when officially questioned by human resources, they weren't able to recall the incidents. How convenient.
We’re used to these pseudo memory lapses from politicians and government officials, who put their own hides and party affiliation before the truth, their so-called values or the good of the country.
While we have low expectations for them, we expect better from everyday Americans, including those that share our office spaces. Sadly that’s not the case, as is clear from the harassment stories covered in your daily news feed.
Being self-employed, I read horrid tales of frat boy behavior and misogynistic office environments and think, “Glad I don’t have to go to a place like that every day.” My friend doesn’t have that luxury.
Although she’s brave and told her boss the entire story, the male executive denies her accusations. The CEO just wants to “move on”. The HR department says they’ve done all they can. In other words, no one will get punished or be held accountable.
She still has to interact with the male executive and his team. She has to cross paths with people in other departments and wonder what they’re thinking. She has to do her job while trying to suppress a constant undercurrent of disgust and disappointment.
There are people, both women and men, 10,000 times more qualified than me to speak about how we can get justice in sexual harassment cases. But now that I’ve been touched by the issue, it’s not a matter of expertise. If you’re human, you’re qualified to fight back.