Today I learned that a high ranking state official where I live resigned in the wake of sexual harassment and forcible touching allegations. Even more egregious is the discovery that in this particular agency allegations of sexual harassment were regularly covered up, and there was a culture where female employees may have felt pressured into intimate relationships in order to gain promotions.
When I read this news piece this morning I caught my breath, and had to tell myself that these were different circumstances, not my own.
In 2008, at a different agency less than a mile away from today’s news making agency, I reported sexual harassment, which included a sexual assault, from my own director. Today that experience is nothing and everything all at once. I call it nothing because I hardly recognize the person I was then. My life is now completely different, and thankfully there are times when I recall that period of time and realize that the assault is no longer part of my every day thoughts. I thought then that there would never be a time when it was not somewhere in the crevices of my mind. I feared that the assault would become and be everything in my life, and at that time it was. There was rarely a moment free of the memory of the experience.
I’ve never forgotten the fact that I was so damn lucky in the simple serendipity that I drew a special investigator who was only interested in figuring out what happened. He had no political motivations, and was, by all measures, objective.
I want women similarly situated to know that reporting it is the best thing
you can do I did for yourself myself, even in the face of awful hatred from colleagues you once thought were your friends, and the hell of a long investigation. Soon after it happened I went to see my doctor. I told her what happened, but I made it clear that I had no intention of reporting it. She said to me, “This will stay with you for the rest of your life if you don’t report it.” She was right and wrong all at once with that statement. By reporting it I’ve experienced a certain freedom from it that would not have happened if I never took action. However, it will always be with me in some way, but reporting it lessened it’s long term impact on my life.
I don’t regret reporting it, but I hope there comes a day when reading similar stories doesn’t shut my brain down to the point of wanting to jump out of my skin.
And with that I have to sign off for tonight. I have a small capacity for writing about this experience in that I can only do it in short spurts.