It was just before the eruption of #metoo that I left my own job, one that I had worked hard to excel at, because of a toxic work environment, working for a narcissist who engaged in bullying tactics to do what he called “motivate” and “lead.” My former boss would publicly humiliate employees, make jokes to male coworkers about date raping me and wanting to see me in bikinis and even throw around racial slurs. Surely, you will say to yourself, this couldn’t be happening in 2017. Surely once reported, this man would, at the very least, be reprimanded, maybe change his behavior, possibly be demoted and maybe even fired? But no, that’s not how this has played out.
As the #metoo movement garnered momentum and I worked on my own frustration through therapy, I decided to participate by posting as part of the movement on social media. I didn’t name any names because outing specific people wasn’t my aim, and also because one of my closest friends is married to the man that I used to work for. Shortly after my post, I got a phone call from upper-level management at the company that I left in April. They were suddenly concerned, which was interesting because they weren’t so concerned about why I was leaving when I left, even though I told my boss’ boss why I was leaving at the time.
After a few weeks of thinking about it and some legal counsel, I decided what I really wanted was my former boss not to be able to continue to act as he had with me. I wanted there to be change. So I called upper-level management to report my experience. I spoke to my former boss’ boss’ boss’ boss who was a woman. I expected some understanding, empathy and at the very least to be believed.
I told her everything. I told her about the sexual comments and jokes. I told her about the humiliation. I told her about the racial slurs. I told her about the text messages that were sexual in nature that continued to come to friends of mine that still worked there after I left.
The message that I received on that phone call was this: boys will be boys.
And two weeks later, it was received louder and clearer when my former boss was promoted, given his own office, moved to Atlanta and given a raise.
Around this same time my former boss’ best friend started telling people he saw me making out with men in bars in an attempt to ruin my reputation.
So here I sit in the middle of, historically and socially, one of the most empowering times for women, yet in my own reality, I feel so powerless. I was not believed. Not only that, but my harasser was rewarded and there was an attempt to malign my reputation.
And I wonder, while Hollywood celebrates #metoo and #timesup, how many other women like me are in this same reality? We hear it everywhere from “out there.” Yet in our daily lives, we are still not seen. Where is the trickle down? What must be done for it to affect business executives in Birmingham, Alabama or Atlanta, Georgia?
When will believing women become more important than the bottom line? Is that even something we can hope for?
Right now, I’m not sure.
This feeling of powerlessness is almost indescribable. There is no satisfaction. It leaves me feeling empty, weak and unseen. Like surely, SURELY, this isn’t happening, right?! It’s a feeling akin to betrayal and it hurts deep down in my core. It’s the feeling of emotional rape, being completely out of control of what’s happening to you and those who have hurt you.
And I write about it to process, but also for other women who have been and are going through the same thing because I know there are so many of us. There are those who have had justice, but there are so many who have not. There is power in naming the wrongs, the injustices, in calling them out for exactly what they were and are and saying, “I see this and it is not ok.” And in this way, I think, we can start to let them go.
If you have experienced sexual harassment or assault and would like to name your experience, I’d welcome the chance to see and believe you. Scroll back up to leave your comment.