Sexual Harassment Is Not Over: It Happened to Me

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In college, the married man who sat across from me at the student newspaper would make unwelcome comments about how I should be a model, and how pretty my eyes were and just how dang good I looked in blue. And then he would constantly stare at me, for inappropriately long amounts of times.

Then, in grad school, a security guard at the state capitol building decided he liked me. He would come up to me every day and ask me for my phone number, or ask me on a date. Every day. And going to my internship at the best building in Illinois suddenly made me want to throw up as I tried to avoid him while going through security. Every. Day.

Then, at a newspaper job I had after college, I was just one of the 20-something women who had to endure being hit on by a married editor at the newspaper. And one night, the two of us ended up in a car alone together, because he was drunk and convinced me he needed a ride, and then he tried to kiss me and then the next day, I had to work with him like nothing had ever happened. Which I did, because saying something would have been worse. I knew that much.

All of those incidents left marks on my weak heart. They made me feel like an object in the purest sense of the word. And they led me to believe that women were not equals. Not even close.

I understand that men don’t always know they’re being inappropriate.

I understand that women like to be hit on.

I understand that people think being hit on too much is a “good" problem and that women should just brush it off.

But I also understand how sick to your stomach it makes you feel when you realize that politely saying no to someone’s advances is being ignored — or worse, that a polite advance has suddenly become less-than-polite without warning.

I understand that sexual harassment is not about a woman’s ability to properly take a dirty joke or ability to just be flattered for goodness sake.

I understand that as long as people believe it's a fake problem, or a good problem, or a crazy problem, nothing will change.

I understand it because I’ve lived it.

I also understand that reporting it is awful and full of aftermath that leaves everyone, especially me, wishing I had just kept my mouth shut. And that any woman who decides to do so is brave and amazing and should be respected.

So while all the controversy around Herman Cain is in the air, and people are saying things like, “Well, that there is a troubled woman,” I implore you to take this opportunity to remember the women you love, and how you want them to be treated in such cases.

Because your mom or sister or daughter probably feels like throwing up or crying or screaming every time they have to pass by that one guy’s desk or go down that one hallway where he works.

They are probably praying every night that he’ll quit or get fired, and they’re probably starting to find a way to quit themselves.

They’re probably wishing they could fix things without first making a huge mess.

They’re probably looking for someone to save them.

And--most likely--nobody is doing anything about it.

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Credit Image: ivoryTowerz on Flickr

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