Keep Your Hands and Your Words to Yourself

November 8, 2009

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

17 Responses to “Keep Your Hands and Your Words to Yourself”

  1. mercystreet said

    I know that hurts and when it happens one can’t always think of a quick comeback. Then later on one thinks off all the things you should have said. At least that is how it is for me. Thankfully in my old age I have a mouth that can rip someones head off. If he does it again by all means report him. No one has the right to talk to you that way.

  2. He needs to know that such talk is unacceptable. I know it’s hard to do, but if it happens again, you need to tell him that, in no uncertain terms. And report him!!

  3. yaketyyak said

    He knows that he crossed the line because I can barely stand to look at him since then. Still, if he ever does it again, I will definitely tell him that it is unacceptable. And, Carol, that’s what kills me – they don’t have the right, but they do it anyway! I have to wonder why…

  4. Jim said

    My employer treats sexual harassment quite seriously. It can hold back advancement or even cost the perp his job.

  5. Sunshyn said

    If it continues after you tell him to cease, you can sue. It’s the law. He will lose his job, and you will get money.

  6. LA said

    Yeah, after the assistant principal told me I’d ‘asked for it’ I dressed like a hobo. No make-up, huge ratty overalls, flannel shirts. And guess what? Men STILL put their hands on me and said disgusting things! Because I knew I wasn’t ‘asking for it’ it was even more demoralizing and terrorizing.

    So sorry we are soul sisters in this particular instance, ya know? ~LA

  7. yaketyyak said

    Yes, I do know, sweetie. Demoralizing and terrorizing are the perfect words to describe the experience.

  8. terri t. said

    You know this is wrong….if you can’t report him without feeling vulnerable to the school system, then tell him you will be contacting an attorney…you don’t have to do that but tell him anyway…It is against the law for him to do this and as long as he thinks he can get away from it, he will…..if you can find out his wife’s name, threaten to call her using her first name when you tell him….

  9. Jeanette said

    Hi Stephanie
    Yes, I am on facebook and I do accept friends. Just look for Jeanette Gohl in Canton Michigan! See you there!!

  10. Jeanette said

    Actually I think both of them are me but the one with the picture is the active one! Thanks! Looking forward to being friends with you!

  11. (No, I’m not making light of this situation at all, but I, of the foul mouth, and even fouler comments, would’ve said that if I wanted to talk about magic, I’d have to talk about his “magical” dick, which obviously didn’t exist, since he had to talk about it so goddamned much.) Yes, I would’ve said it–I’ve said similar things, and stabbed a guy (who was BEYOND drunk that grabbed my ass when I got off the bus.) I stabbed him with something or other metal that I’d forgotten to leave in the office. Didn’t stab him in the heart, head, or anything really dangerous–it was the ass-grabbing hand. Then I jumped off the bus, listening to the cheers of the bus patrons. You know, bus patrons tend to be rather rough at times, but damn, if they don’t either kick someone’s ass that makes bad comments toward women (okay, another long story…one afternoon, I get on the bus, and it’s SUPER quiet….a weird quiet. I hear various whispers, and it turns out this old drunk guy (of COURSE he was drunk!) either grabbed the breast of a young teen, or something or other. I mean, these people were just lying in wait to see when he was getting off the bus. Thankfully, he loudly announced that he wanted to get off in front of the discount cigarette/liquor store, and two rather burly gentlemen decided that perhaps they wanted cigarettes, too…or just to beat that guy’s ass. Anyhoo, it lasted as long as a Tyson fight used to last. The other guy didn’t have to do anything, the first one threw the punch, hitting ol’ Drunky dead in the face. He’s out on the sidewalk, and we’re cheering on the bus like they just announced free fares or something.

    I always said that I was too dignified to get joy out of a man getting his ass deservedly kicked, but goddamn! I laughed so hard it was like I was watching the funniest Three Stooges movie; Married With Children (when Al falls off the roof, or when Kelly calls Chicago “Chick-ago”, or any hysterically funny thing you can think of.)

    Yes, I am evil, I’m pretty sure I’m burning in Hell for various reasons both past and present, so I’m not even going to worry about it. 🙂 I’m going to rant on LA’s dilemma as soon as I finish!


  12. JJ said

    You know what’s scary? I have a story similar to yours – I’ll go post it now – but, it’s also a high school sexual harassment story – who the hell are we hiring at our schools?

  13. JJ said

    Stephanie, I wrote my own long story on wordpress and then promptly and accidentally deleted it last night. I’ll have to rewrite it later – I’m still feeling like crap from this damn swine flu!

  14. Mary said

    I was harassed at work once. I grew up with four brothers, I am comfortable with men, I can take their bs. This made me feel so uncomfortable I was hiding at lunchtime so he wouldn’t have a chance to talk to me. I never reported it, even though it made me feel so icky, I am an adult and I should be able to handle it, you know? Finally he grabbed my butt in public and someone else told my boss, and he was toast. They couldn’t fire him fast enough. If it ever happens again, I’ll put a stop to it with the first comment, but I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me.

  15. yaketyyak said

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Mary. I can especially relate to what you said about hiding at lunchtime. I memorized that guy’s schedule so I could be sure to avoid seeing him in the faculty room.

  16. - said

    “Thankfully in my old age I have a mouth that can rip someones head off.”
    ha 😉
    btw, the relatively contemporary expression is, “rip [him/her] a new one” 🙂
    Unfortunately almost any defense you take is “scrutinizable”, while anything the boss says or does is seen as good (to be seen otherwise requires high burden of proof.) the whole bureacracy is loaded against the “inferior” (cough, gag) employee.
    Even ‘peers” will stay silent (a very few may acknowledge awareness of the abuse or “support” you, but only in one-on-one settings)

    “Yeah, after the assistant principal told me I’d ‘asked for it’ I dressed like a hobo. No make-up, huge ratty overalls, flannel shirts. And guess what? Men STILL put their hands on me and said disgusting things! Because I knew I wasn’t ‘asking for it’ it was even more demoralizing and terrorizing.”
    in what manner did asst principal claim you “ask for it”? To what “it” did he refer? (btw, makeup, clothing, blahblah have near zero influence on attractiveness. if you’re super cute, even shaving your head won’t significantly lessen cuteness. not bathing for a week has influence, but is obviously impractical.)

    “Demoralizing and terrorizing are the perfect words to describe the experience.”
    and you realize a lot of bullying is perpetrated in schools?

    “if you can find out his wife’s name, threaten to call her using her first name when you tell him….”
    that tactic appears to have potential effect, though I don’t know whether any drawbacks…

    “Then I jumped off the bus, listening to the cheers of the bus patrons.”
    ahh, your advantage was having witnesses!
    this reminds me of a HS lit teacher comment, long ago. A backrow student kept badmouthing another boy who regularly sat in the front row. (I don’t recall now, but I think this included threats.) One day, the front row guy walked to the backrow guy and with one hit, sent blood from backrow’s nose across the wall. that shut up backrow.

    maybe better than a knockdown would have been to “fondle” the drunk fondler, espec since the fondler never punched anyone (within this bus ride story). duct tape him to the seat until he sobered?

    “Finally he grabbed my butt in public and someone else told my boss, and he was toast.”
    I doubt you could have done much until the perp made that blunder. unfortunately, victims of abuse need a reasonably independent witness, else the bureaucracy tends to side with the perp.

    Song of the topic: search & destroy – the stooges

  17. I see that you really do relate. I’m so sorry. Actually this kind of conduct towards me by men is the very reason that I started gaining weight in the beginning. It was not conscious on my part. My ex bf Kevin saw me after my weight gain and reminded me of a time when I told him that I was gonna get fat so men would quit being attracted to me. I was only 20 or so when I said that to him. When he saw me again in my thirties, I had done it. When he reminded me of saying that, I realized that the sexual harassment I had endured so often was indeed a catalyst for my weight gain.

    Yes we do have a human rights commission. I already have a case pending with them for my problems with AT&T. That case has been ongoing since 2007 and has yet to be resolved. I don’t want the OHRC to think that I just file complaints for the sake of filing complaints. Both of my reasons are valid though. It just leads me to think that companies routinely violate human rights laws because most people overlook the violations. But I do want this violation dealt with swiftly. I do not want it going on year after year like my AT&T case has done. I am going to post this comment here and on my Hum as well just so you know. I sure am sorry that you understand how I feel. I really am. Love you Stephanie!!

    PS. Please send me notifications of posts to the above email address. Thanks.

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