I just read an entry over at LA’s place, the content of which left me feeling pretty disturbed.  It triggered some deeply unpleasant memories about being sexually harassed.  My worst experience had more to do with words than it did with groping, but a lot of damage was done, nonetheless.

It began about a year after I started working at the high school.  The creep in question was an English teacher.  He knew that I was married, and was married, himself.   This man would sneak up behind me and whisper in my ear.  He always made comments about the way I walked, as well as what I was wearing and how I looked in it.  Things got so bad, I started to wear loose, shapeless clothing, and even went so far as to put on some extra pounds.   That wasn’t my conscious intention, but I have no doubt that the stress, combined with a fervent wish for Mr. Creepy to stop overtly lusting after me, had a lot to do with the weight gain.

The situation reached the boiling point and finally ended with me in tears, shouting at him to “Stop! Stop watching me so closely!  Stop looking at me like that!  Stop making those remarks! Just stop!”

After my outburst, I ran into the library office and sobbed my heart out.  The librarian I worked with at the time knew what was going on, and she was very supportive.  She did her best to comfort me, and suggested that I turn him in, but I was afraid to do that.  This was happening during the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings, and I couldn’t bear the thought of being put through what Ms. Hill was going through.  I was already feeling much too vulnerable as it was.

Fortunately, Mr. Creepy did stop bothering me after my public outburst, but I didn’t feel comfortable and relaxed at work again until he retired.  Good riddance to bad rubbish.

I had an ugly reminder of those days a couple of weeks ago when another co-worker (someone I barely know), in response to my totally innocent remark about rubbing a magic lamp, replied that he had something else I could rub.  This was not the first inappropriate comment he made to me, but it was the last straw.  I felt sick to my stomach, and once again retreated to the sanctuary of the library office.  To complete the feeling of Déjà vu, it was once again a librarian who was a witness to my tears, and who tried to console me.

I am neither a delicate flower nor a prude.  Among friends, I am perfectly comfortable with dirty jokes and conversations about sex. But this kind of thing is something else entirely.

Psychologists and social workers report that severe/chronic sexual harassment can have the same psychological effects as rape or sexual assault.

Sexual harassment hurts.

Song of the Day: Keep Your Hands to Yourself by The Georgia Satellites

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