“Why are you reaching over me?” I thought. “Why do you think I’m an idiot? Why are you sitting on my desk and why are you over here in the first place? Hello, my eyes are up here. God you’re rude.” These are the things I think. Working alone at night is a scary thing when you are a chick, even in a secure building. Badass or no, when a guy comes up behind you at 10pm in a back corner office, you freak a bit. Deciding what’s behind it is a different issue altogether.
I shouldn’t have to run and hide whenever no one is around to “protect” me
Last year, a guy began to hit on me at work. He wasn’t my type and I had just had my heart put through the garbage disposal, so I gently turned him down the first few times. After a while, I just laughed at him. When I got involved with my beau, I figured he’d get the hint. I guess that didn’t matter much to him and I mostly ignored him. Recently he made a comment to a new co-worker that there was porn of me on the Internet. I told the new guy not to believe him because there has never been porn of me anywhere, but creepy guy persisted. I got ticked off and went inside, vowing never to be caught outside with that guy again. I accepted the fact that he was a classless jerk and later vented to my boyfriend about it. A week later, he told me that word had gotten around about what he said and he had been written up for it. If it happens again, he will be fired.
I felt almost bad, part of me thinks everyone is overreacting to the comments of an idiot, part of me thinks I have no right to complain because I talk trash like that with my friends all the time at work. A big part of me thinks it’s my own fault for not saying it in plain English…thinking avoiding him and not talking to him even when he spoke to me would get the point across. If that didn’t, the hateful glares should have. That because I am so afraid of conflict, I am at fault. That because I will do anything not to hurt someone’s feelings, I invited it upon myself and now he has to “pay” for it. I don’t accept this. I don’t accept that simply because I have boobs and someone else notices, I could cost them their job. Conversely, the people who reported this guy are also right. I shouldn’t have to run and hide whenever no one is around to “protect” me. I shouldn’t be nervous at my own place of business. I’d finally started to accept that until last week.
“I already told him I know how to use VI and run the man pages. Why is he trying to show me how to do a simple “replace” command? Why doesn’t he just adjust the keyboard instead of reaching over me like that? Why is he *always* over here this time of night? GET OUT OF MY SPACE YOU CREEP!!!” Weirdo Guy #2 has What happens if I let him get away with it? Am I a slut? A cock-tease and I don’t realize it? been coming around in spurts. Older guy, sick sense of humor, always made me uncomfortable. Never seems to be looking at me…stares. Always starts a conversation about the simplest cases, making them out to be doozies that I’ll have a lot of fun working on. They are always simple cases that take me 2 minutes to figure out and fix. He’s higher up the food chain than I am and shouldn’t need to send these cases down to the bottom of the barrel. And he certainly should have to walk over here to tell me about them.
The spurts started up again about two or three weeks ago. Whenever he catches me outside when he’s coming in to work, it seems to start. He’ll come back to my department and start with the cases thing, make a few comments about something stupid and wander away after a while. After the 9/11 attacks, he came over and commented about wishing one of his family members was in one of those buildings. Earlier he’d said it was a lovely day for a bar-b-q in New York. When I told him I had a friend from there that was missing, he asked me if I was keeping busy. That’s when I told him I was learning VI. He came over once or twice more that week, but someone else was here at the time.
A friend of mine had made some comments about WG#2 to the effect WG#2 wasn’t well liked around there. I was thrilled with the gossip because WG#2 had told me about some other pretty crummy things he’d done, like donating a car to charity stating that it ran fine when it was really a piece of crap. Conversation soon passed to other topics and the day went on. Later I was talking to said friend on AIM from work when WG#2 came back to my area again. I minimized the window and waited till he went away. I apologized to my friend and explained why I wasn’t responding. My friend began to ask me what WG#2 was doing back there, how often he came around, if he every touched me or said anything that he shouldn’t be saying. He asked me if he ever stood too close or found a reason to reach or lean over me to “show” me something or anything. He kept asking me questions and all I could type back was “Fuck!” He told me we need to talk and I should seriously consider filing a report because I was not the only one who’s dealing with this from WG#2.
And now, fear, panic, disgust and paranoia, not to mention confusion. Now what? Am I the troublemaker? 2 reports against two different people in regards to me in less than 3 months? They’re supposed to believe me? They’re supposed to look at me and just accept that I am a magnet for perverts? I’ve already gotten someone fired for things like this before and I don’t like the guilt. I can’t cope with thinking I have ruined some guy’s life because I can’t deal with his quirks or because I can’t tell him to step off? Is it my fault or not? What if it’s not that these guys are harassing me, it’s just that they have no class and are too stupid to know they are being offensive or making me uncomfortable? No, I’m not supposed to have to live like that, but what does it look like to the rest of the world? What if people think I’m overreacting? What if I am?
All of a sudden, I am afraid instead of annoyed. I am afraid to be here right now and I am afraid to walk around. I am terrified to tell anyone because I am afraid of being forced to file a report. I am afraid to be “the chick who screams ‘HR!'” I have been not believed before and I am afraid that if someone has enough disregard to harass someone at work like that, what will happen if I make them angry? What happens if WG#2 is unstable and HR doesn’t move fast enough? What happens if I let him get away with it? Am I a slut? A tease and I don’t realize it? Even I doubt that I just attract these people, even I sometimes think it must be me, and I know that’s not right.
‘Good girls don’t tattle. Bad things don’t happen to good girls.’ Things I have always heard and reminded myself of since childhood. It’s so deeply ingrained now that I don’t know what to do anymore. ‘Good girls are quiet.’ I don’t even know where I got it anymore. Even if I gave up the Baptist upbringing I had, I still can’t shake that. ‘God never punishes the good, only the evil.’ Even though I don’t believe in that god anymore, I still feel like things like this are a just punishment. I made a good little Baptist girl; everything was my fault and still is. Now god is punishing me for not believing in him. It’s not a conscious thought, but something the “little one” in me still believes.
But I am a strong, intelligent woman. I can’t think like that. No man can make me doubt myself. No one should make me feel scared. I know what is harassment and what isn’t. I know who I am and what makes me uncomfortable. I *know* these things, so I know…I know. I don’t know. It took a gay man to tell me I was being abused. It took a stranger to tell me I’d been raped. It took a co-worker to show me I was being harassed. I don’t know shit. I know what I want to do. I want to ignore it and let it go away on its own. I want people to stop making a big deal out of everything. I want black and white rules that aren’t subjective to “how I feel as the victim”. I want a checklist. “You know you’ve been harassed if…” Cut and dry. I don’t want to have to talk to the other girl in my department. I don’t want to have to have “the meeting” with my boss. I don’t want to have to tell my boyfriend that it’s happening again with someone else. I don’t want to go into that little room with the people I don’t know and the paperwork and explain, “Well, he reached over me and I think he’s staring at my boobs.” I don’t want to have to defend my clothes or my rapport with fellow co-workers who happen to be my friends. But at the same time, I don’t want to feel my heart jump into my throat everything someone walks behind me to get something off the fax machine at night. I don’t want to be so scared that I am in tears by the time I have to walk to my car because he could be anywhere and could come by at anytime.
If it were you, I know what I would say. I know I would tell you he’s sick and can’t be trusted and that you should at least talk to your boss or someone completely unbiased and trust them and their thoughts. I know if I were that unbiased person, I’d tell you it’s not right and you need to do something about it. I know that if it were you, I’ll tell you to demand a shift change because ladies shouldn’t work alone at night unless someone is going to supply you with a stun gun. If it was you and you whined like I did, I’d say “What? Do you want to wait and see if he rapes you and *still* blame yourself because you didn’t go up to him at any point and say ‘Hey! You creep me out. Don’t touch me or talk to me or stare at my boobs, and please don’t rape me.'” But it’s me and I would rather live with it than take the chance of unjustly taking someone’s livelihood away from them. I would rather debate with myself about if I am overreacting or not than publicly point my finger and say, “That man is a pervert who harasses young women…I think.” I’d rather ignore it. If I close my eyes, he’ll go away, right? I’m tired of being a “victim” of things and just want people to stop noticing me. I don’t want to have to get anyone fired. But I’m learning now, that this is, perhaps, the world.