The country is at a defining moment. Somewhere close to half of all voters will cast a ballot for the nation’s first female president. Many of the rest will choose the most misogynistic presidential candidate in modern American history. There is a depressing irony in the fact it was that Republican candidate himself who reminded everyone that there are plenty of men in power who use that power to demean, denigrate, and demoralize women.
About a month ago, just after the release of a tape in which Donald Trump boasted of sexually assaulting women, Canadian author Kelly Oxford issued a call to action with a single tweet: “Women: tweet me your first assaults. They aren’t just stats. I’ll go first. Old man on city bus grabs my ‘pussy’ and smiles at me. I’m 12.”
By the end of the weekend more than 40 million people had visited Oxford’s Twitter page. “Honestly, I think we’ve all talked about these things in private,” she says. “Trump just took the conversation to a place where everyone heard it and could discuss on Twitter. There has never been anything like that before.”
In the weeks since, people have shared stories in Facebook posts, through Medium posts, and on Instagram and Snapchat. Two weeks ago, WIRED asked readers to share their stories of workplace harassment. We received close to 100 emails. We read them all, and found them thoughtful, detailed, and heartbreaking. Readers barely into their teens told us about demeaning comments, inappropriate behavior, and sexual assault by their superiors. A woman in her 60s said she’d endured harassment for more than half her life. Men, too, told harrowing stories of harassment.
“You look good on your knees. That’s a good position for you.”
Instead he drove me to an empty car park and put his hand up my skirt.
She replied, “I think you brought it on yourself by asking them to stop. I won’t ask them to stop being guys.”
These things happened to lawyers and construction workers, waitresses and doctors, people in tech and people in HR. What Trump has helped make stark and clear is that beyond the rampant harassment of women online, this quiet and pretty damn widespread thing has been happening IRL for a very long time.
He said, “Do you think I hired you because you’re smart?”
“You like your health insurance? Don’t you?” my boss asked. I nodded. “Don’t I take good care of you?”
“He would stand in the doorway, so there was no way for me to get past him without physical contact no matter how I tried or asked him to move.”
As we wrote in our call for stories, borrowing from the Silicon Valley ethos of letting information be free, WIRED believes shining a light on a festering topic like this can go a long way toward ensuring that the future for women is an optimistic one.
He told me, on several occasions, that he wanted to take me back to his apartment and “violate” me.
Men make comments to me I would not dream of saying to a man in a professional setting.
The shame and embarrassment are still there, but worn down like a rock without the sharp edges anymore.
Oxford also is hopeful that things will change. “I think this is one of the greatest uses of the internet. I’m grateful for Twitter, as a platform, to get everyone out and talking. It is the only way we could have had a conversation this large. Maybe more people will discuss it now.”
Indeed, they are. As WIRED prepared these emails for publication, men in the office expressed shock at how many women experienced repeated incidents of harassment, and how many of those incidents started when the women were teen-agers—victimized by middle-aged aggressors. One young woman was surprised by the number of stories written by men who’d been harassed by men or women.
And one young writer was dismayed by the pervasiveness of it all. “I was raised in San Francisco, and worked at a Jewish summer camp where God was referred to by the female pronoun,” he said. “I always thought of sexual harassment as something that plagued other communities. When I moved in with my girlfriend, the stories she’d tell me were hard to take. She explained that that is just a reality of being a woman, that these things happen. I was naïve, which was both fortunate and unfair. It will be impossible to remain that way after this election.”
You Have a Great Ass
When I was 16, I was working at a grocery store as a cashier. One day, as I was climbing a ladder to put up some signage, a manager approached me and said “I could watch you go up and and down that ladder all day. You have a great ass!” He made comments like that to me on a regular basis. I was only in high school at the time, so it took me awhile, but I finally reported it and he was fired.
Fear, Disgust, and a Profound Sense of Unfairness
I’ve been following the US presidential campaign from Bogota, Colombia and I was outraged by the video of Donald Trump saying his position of power allows him to do anything he pleases to a woman. The night it was released I was trying to explain to my husband, beyond the obvious distaste, why those words were so offensive to every woman, everywhere, when I suddenly burst into tears; my words took me to every sexual harassment I’ve ever experienced, especially at the workplace. It was one of the main reasons I abandoned successful careers in HR and academia to start over as an assistant, working from the security of my home.
Those experiences include the time I was locked in a superior’s office so he could ask me to go out with him. (He was also the father of one of my college friends, so you can imagine how ashamed I was). And the time a colleague asked me to stay late to finish something, just to find out his true intention was to try to take me to dinner despite both of us being married. Then there was the bully-boss who would condescendingly refer to my looks when I confronted him: “such a pretty lady should (or should not) …”
The academic world wasn’t any better. That was my biggest disappointment—surrounded by highly educated academics, I expected to finally be safe. But there was the dean who belittled the women in his department to the married elder colleague, who was my boss, who would constantly give me “wet kisses” on my cheek and send “romantic” messages to my phone despite me having explained to him I did not consider those advances proper. All these encounters left me with fear, disgust, and a profound sense of unfairness.
I’ve Had So Many Moments Like These
I work in a hospital. These are stories about harassment by my coworkers, all at work, during the day, in the presence of multiple people: There is the young doctor who, while answering a question, runs his hand up and down my arm and one day told me he has a foot fetish, that if he sees women’s feet he loses it—all while staring at my open-toed sandals. There was the very important (and married) doctor who repeatedly emailed me late at night from his work account to flirt with me and ask me out for coffee. There’s the female coworker who repeatedly grabs my ass in the hallway; the young doctor who only talked to me about my clothes, and my red hair (and showed me Youtube videos about gingers). And the coworker who was a hands-sliding (down to my ass) hugger. Going back further, there’s the professor who got drunk at a school party and bit me on the shoulder. Like with most other women you’ll hear from, I’ve had so many moments like these that I’m sure I’ve forgotten many.
You Can Suck Them
I was doing an internship at a TV production company. I was the only female in the writer’s room, and on my first day a script needed to be translated. When I was asked if I could do it, I replied that I could, as I was bilingual. One of the executives’ reply? “I have two cocks here, you can suck them.” Everybody laughed while I just stood there looking horrified.
I Don’t Wear Skirts or Dresses Anymore
I work in tech. When I would walk by a coworker he’d email me to tell me he liked my outfit or that my legs looked good. He was a top sales rep, and was later sued by a female employee (I warned management but they ignored me). But he’s still employed at the company. Then there was the time I was sitting down in a chair and (unbeknownst to me) the CEO put his hand on the chair so that I sat on it. And the former boss who once slapped my bum. I was let go after reporting it while he stayed on in a director role. All of this is why I don’t wear skirts or dresses anymore.
They Just Called Me ‘Jugs’
I worked for a large medical testing company—once in a support call center and later as a programmer. The day all of us in the call center were laid off, I found out that most of the men working in the data center across the hall never bothered to learn my name. They just called me ‘Jugs.’
I Was Too Scared to Say Anything
I was 16 and my aunt got me a summer job at a title company in Los Angeles. One title officer who was probably in his 50’s (and was married) would say things to me when nobody else was around. I was too young to know what to really make of it. Once I was using a copy machine on his floor and he walked by and said in a low voice, ” Boy do I have a good view at my desk.” I was shocked. I was too scared to say something because I was worried that I would lose my first job and that I would make my aunt look bad. That was 15 years ago, and I will never forget his face and how uncomfortable he made me feel.
He’d Been Spying On Me
I was working for a vice president and associate VP at a major university. One day the associate asked me to change my hours and come in at 7:00 am every day so I did. We were both there for an hour before anyone else got to work. He began to tell me how his wife didn’t do anything for him, then he told me she didn’t satisfy him sexually. He told me he had a foot fetish and he liked my feet. He would ask me to drive him places and once put his hand on my leg and asked what I would do if he ran his hand up my leg. I picked his hand up and moved it while saying, “I would tell you not to do that.” To which he replied, “Well, you hurt my feelings.”
We had to go on a trip which involved a hotel stay and he kept finding excuses for me to come to his room. That night he told me he was a sex addict, and I told him I was going back to my room and not to call me again. The next day he apologized, but once he realized I wasn’t going to report him or sleep with him he turned against me and made my life miserable for the next two years. We finally got a new vice president who relieved him of his duties. I didn’t report it because I knew I would be the one to get moved to a lower department somewhere and he would just get a warning.
Years later he divorced his wife, who was a lovely lady and she and I got to talking. We started putting things together and realized he had actually been spying on me from the lot behind my house.
Pinching And Slapping My Ass
When I was 16 years old I got my first real job flipping burgers at a local fast food chain. One of my co-workers (who I hardly knew) would flirt with me by sneaking up behind me and pinching or slapping my ass. I was a new employee, and inexperienced. All I knew was that it was uncomfortable and embarrassing. I never challenged the pincher, or reported the harassment to my boss because both the pincher and my manager were women. I am a man.
He Cornered Me In the Elevator
From the first day at a new job, a married coworker started hitting on me. He sent sexual innuendos in email, would linger in my office, and wink at me in passing. When I’d had enough, I turned him down. A week later he cornered me in the elevator and tried to kiss me. I reported him but nothing was done other than moving me to another part of the office. For two years he found ways to touch me and stare at me with intimidating looks. I felt alone because of how my office handled it (or lack thereof). It only stopped when I moved to another state.
I Was Afraid of Losing My Job
When I was 20, I went to work at my first office job at a clothing manufacturer/importer. The warehouse manager would constantly talk about my big boobs. He asked me if my back hurt from carrying them around, stared all the time, and it all made me very uncomfortable. I did not say anything to my boss because my manager had only been there a short time and the warehouse manager had been there for many years. I was afraid of losing my job, which I needed. It was a very small company so when I got married, I put an invitation to my wedding reception on the bulletin board for my friends, and sure enough he showed up with several other coworkers. He came up to me and said, “I guess a blow-job is out of the question.” I couldn’t believe it!
I Still Cringe When I Think About It
I worked at a company for nine years. About a year before I left, I was outside directing a delivery guy where to take a shipment. It was the last day of work for one of our male employees who had gotten a new job. He was in his 50s. He came outside to say goodbye. But he did so by coming up behind me, and putting his mouth so close to my ear that I could feel his mustache hairs and his hot breath. He whispered, “you have one of the nicest asses I’ve ever seen.” I laughed it off and nervously and told him to get out of here. I went into the Human Resources office and told them what happened but I knew there was nothing that could be done. He knew that too. He waited until his last day. His final paycheck signed. No potential for punishment. I still cringe when I think about it.
He Asked Me Not to Tell Anyone
When I was 21, my supervisor emailed me to ask me if I’d ever posted nude photos online. He said he’d seen a girl who looked like me and thought he’d ask since I seemed like a “free spirit.” When I said no, he asked me not to tell anyone he’d asked, given this was a “sensitive situation” for him.
Every Day I Worked I Was Sexually Harassed
This past spring, I began working at a golf course in Florida. All the locker room Trump he must have been referring to had to have been the kind of talk that occurs in the men’s locker room/lounge, where filthy rich, entitled country club go-ers chat about anything from each other’s wives, to their gambling problems and so forth.
I wish that I could say that I was surprised when I heard the comments he has made, but honestly I wasn’t. The entire country club felt like I was in a real life Wolf of Wall Street, debauchery and sleaziness everywhere.
I worked at the golf course as a cart girl, driving around to each group and providing snacks and drinks to players. During my training I heard many stories, one in particular that stuck out to me when I heard the tape of Trump saying he “grab[bed] her by the p***y.” A girl hired to do the same job as me had been training for a week when one of the men from an older group of gentlemen put his hand underneath her tennis skirt (part of our uniform). He then gave her $20 and told her to forget about it. This man was only suspended for a week, despite his wife and everyone else at the club finding out about it.
Every single day I worked at this golf course I was sexually harassed by either members, my superiors, or my coworkers. One manager thought it was cute to flirt with me, always coming up behind me—grabbing me to surprise me, making lewd conversation about me in front of others.
I would have liked to say I had a thick skin from my previous work in the restaurant industry, but I was mistaken. There was the never ending slew of “pet names” that mostly older men think they can get away with (sweetheart, babe, honey, darling, etc.). As a woman who has been sexually assaulted, I was infuriated upon hearing Trump’s comments—all of them not just the most recent.
An Indecent Proposal
At one job, after I did a training session for the entire department, a coworker felt the need to call me at my desk and ask if I would have been able to give the training if he bent me over the podium and fucked me from behind.
He Squeezed My Butt Hard, Then Winked
Age 17, I worked at the Student Health Center at a university in California as part of my financial aid packet. One day the medical director came into the room where a nurse was teaching me how to use the autoclave. The nurse stepped out, and the medical director looked me in the eye, reached around behind me and squeezed my butt hard, then winked and walked out. I had been violently raped by a close friend the year before. I was frozen. The nurse came back in. Maybe three minutes destroyed my first semester. (I wonder what gender people imagine each of us in this incident are.)
Do You Think I Hired You Because You’re Smart?
The investors at a company where I worked were always flirting with me. Some made inappropriate comments. I assumed it was part of the job. One day an investor put his hand down the back of my pants on my ass, in my underwear. I was shocked. I was stunned. I was mortified. I went to my boss and told him. He smiled. Then he said, “Do you think I hired you because you’re smart?” I said nothing. I was dressed in tight jeans and heels. A low cut shirt. Surely I brought this on myself. I was supposed to like this, right? “You like your health insurance? Don’t you?” My boss asked. I nodded. “Don’t I take good care of you?” I nodded. I walked away in shame and confusion. “This is who I am” is what I thought as I went back to work.
I Tried to Never Be Alone Near Him
In the first couple of weeks of starting my first office job, a guy started to be very friendly, offering to help carry heavy items, holding the door, telling me I was doing a great job. This progressed to hugs, and unwanted physical contact. He would grab my arm and hold me close, whispering in my ear how he thought I looked pretty that day, and kissing me without permission. He would come up behind me, trapping me against a counter, way too close, and tell me about how he wanted to go on a vacation to Italy and would I like to go with him? I would say “No, thank you” and try to get away. Whenever he held a door open for me, he would stand in the doorway, so there was no way for me to get past him without physical contact no matter how I tried or asked him to move. I tried to never be alone near him, but the nature of my job made that nearly impossible. After four months, someone saw him trap me against a counter and they reported it—because he had done something similar to them once, a year before.
I Lived With the Guilt
The harassment started within the first couple of weeks. One of the guys was very friendly toward me, always offering to help carry heavy items, holding the door open, telling me I was doing a great job. I thought he was being nice, and appreciated his assistance. This attention progressed to hugs, and unwanted physical contact. He would grab my arm and hold me close, whispering in my ear about how he thought I looked pretty that day, and kissing me without permission. I would be trying to do my work and he would come up behind me, trapping me against a counter, and tell me about how he wanted to go on a vacation to Italy and would I like to go with him? I would say ‘No, thank you’ and try to get away. After nearly four months, someone else saw one of the incidents where he had me trapped against a counter, holding my arm tight, whispering in my ear, and they reported it — because he had done something similar to them once, too, a year before.
An investigation followed, and I spent an anxious several weeks retelling all the incidents of harassment to various people, who believed me or didn’t, to varying degrees. Thankfully there had been multiple witnesses; several people told me after they were sorry they hadn’t done anything sooner. I always insisted it wasn’t their fault, it was mine for not doing something sooner. Why didn’t I initiate the investigation? Because the man was popular; I was new and in the lowest possible position. Because he and my boss’s boss went golfing together.
I lived with the guilt of having ended his career, his friendships, and who knows what else for far too long, instead of taking care of myself and moving on.
Show the Bartender a Little Something
When I graduated from college, I worked in a small office. Our CEO was a married man in his mid 50s. He could be moody, but he was professional and respectful at work. One weekend at a conference, we were both waiting at the bar for a drink. He looked over at me and mimed pulling his shirt down to show his chest. “Show the bartender a little something and he’ll pour you a drink really quick,” he laughed. He was obviously drunk. My face instantly flushed. “I’m not talking to you as your boss right now, OK?” he said. At that same job, there was a man on our board of directors who often stared at me when I was presenting and looked at my breasts when I would talk with him one-on-one. He would hug me, and his hugs lasted longer than was comfortable.
I Don’t Think People Understand
I think inappropriate comments happen on a daily basis but I just didn’t realize and for a long time have thought it’s my fault. Often people will play it off as “banter” and will accuse you of being too sensitive in a work environment. I’m also the youngest person at work so I often get taken advantage of in all aspects. After one of our work events, I was sitting with a few colleagues and clients. One client kept commenting on how my boobs/”tits” were out. He was drinking but that’s no excuse. This is an old man and I’m expected to be polite to clients. I then went to sit on another table where he continued to pester me and insult me regarding my boobs in front of my colleagues and other clients.
This client has been banned thanks to intervention from a bystander. However, I don’t think people understand the emotions I go through replaying all these crude, crass remarks in my head. How do I walk around without people thinking that I’m asking for it? What can I do so older men, especially, don’t think they’re entitled to comment on my boobs simply because they’re shapely?
How Many Stories Can I Cram Into 300 Words?
Of course I have had unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. How many stories can I cram in 300 words? When I was 16, the man whose children I babysat overnight tried forcing himself on me on his couch. Later he asked me to please join him in the bedroom and said I “didn’t know what I was missing” when I declined. When I was 22 at my first real job, my parents drove 700 miles to see my new office and the owner gave them a tour with his hand on my ass the entire time. From about 2011-2014 I worked with a man who constantly made sexual references, including asking me to come to his office to give him a birthday present. I did not encourage or want any of his comments or sexual attention. He was about 40 years older than me. Men make comments to me I would not dream of saying to a man in a professional setting.
Trying to Get Me to Sleep With Him
We had hired a new assistant manager at a food chain and it was clear from the start that he was interested in me. If he wasn’t joking around about cheating on his wife, he was trying to actually get me to sleep with him. My boyfriend happened to work with me during this time and one day he came home really upset. When I asked him why he told me that he overheard the manager bragging about having sex with me. When I reported him to the regional general manager, nothing was done. A few weeks later he was trying to get my attention so he thought it would be funny to kick my knee. He ended up spraining it and I had to go to the hospital. Still he kept his job. A week after that, he screamed at a fellow employee for being late and got fired for that. Sexual harassment is not taken seriously.
The CEO Grabbed My Breast
I was 22 years old and at my first job as a full-time journalist. I worked at a mid-sized daily newspaper in Texas that was owned by a large publishing company. The CEO and his entourage showed up one day while I was working. I noticed a mass migration of women off the editorial floor, but I was busy so I stayed at my desk, working. The editor, managing editor, and publisher were making their way around the floor with the CEO, introducing him. Then they got to me. The editor-in-chief introduced me, and as I put my hand out for a handshake, the CEO reached out and grabbed my breast. No one said anything. No one even flinched. I had always thought that if it ever happened to me, I’d scream and raise hell, or slap the guy. But when it really happened, I was too scared. Too ashamed. Too embarrassed. That was 22 years ago. I am still embarrassed that I let him get away with it.
He Wanted to ‘Violate’ Me
In my mid-20s I worked as a secretary at an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. My boss, the general manager, flirted with all the women; staff and guests alike. But he reserved special treatment for me. He had my boyfriend fired; instead of the standard 2-cheek kiss as a greeting, he often tried to catch my mouth; he would ask for hugs; he told me, on several occasions, in French in front of English-speaking guests, that he wanted to take me back to his apartment and “violate” me. When I wore a long dress on New Year’s Eve, he told me he preferred me in short dresses so he could look at my legs. When I finally found myself unable to take any more, I reached out to HR, asking them to get me out of that hotel without telling the manager why. HR promptly called him and probably provided him with a copy of my letter. He explained to me that it was all “just a joke”; I should get a sense of humor. He kept me at that resort until the day my passport expired, when I was finally “allowed” to leave. The irony of all of this is that when I was 15, I won a public speaking contest in high school. The topic? Sexual harassment. Now in my late 40s, I can only guess that it was because I was scared of what could happen to me, in a foreign country, with no access to my passport, that I did nothing. I was happy to have a job in a beautiful location, so I tried to ignore him but nothing would tear his attention from me. In the end, I left, never had to see him again. But I still would like to kick him in the balls.
I’ve Come to Expect My Path Is Going to Be Difficult
As a woman and minority in the sciences, I’ve come to expect that my path in life is just going to be difficult. I’ve gone to professional conferences, stepped into a room full of men, and been asked, “You know this is quantum mechanics, right?” (Yes. I have a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, and I’m pretty sure that qualifies me to properly read a room number.)
An experience that still gets under my skin years happened during an internship. If I said something that the manager liked or agreed with, he didn’t say “great” or “sounds good.” He would point a finger-gun at me, wink, and click his tongue against his teeth. It was so uncomfortable. He didn’t do this to other men. Is it because I’m a woman? Is it because I’m an intern? Should I just expect to be treated this way if I work here? (Note: it took only a split-second to somehow make this my fault.)
I’m in a much different place in my life now, a place where I’m a manager and I know that I don’t have to put up with any behavior that makes me uncomfortable. But, it took half a decade to realize that I could’ve just said, “Please don’t do that,” and I’ll always wish I’d let him know that he just shouldn’t have done it in the first place.
He Begged Me to Give Him a Blowjob
I had a job driving a truck at a construction job at an airport. I was one of three women out of 40 drivers. Every day, our boss asked one or the other of us for a BJ. He would touch us inappropriately in meetings. And one day I had an incident where my truck came too close to an electrical line and blew out 12 of my 18 tires. I almost got electrocuted. My boss had me get in his pickup to go back to the yard. All the way back to my car he begged me to give him a blowjob. I was a total wreck after almost losing my job, and I told him no I wouldn’t. He told me I needed to go to his house that night to fill out paperwork. When I got there, his wife was there so I thought it would be ok. Then she went to bed. After he put his children to bed he grabbed me again and said I had to do this for him. Needless to say, I quit.
The Next Time I Went to Work, I Brought a Lawyer
When I was 16 I was working my first job at a pet store. The environment was a real “man’s club” with the owner and his staff. I was a very large-breasted girl and had been that way since I was 12. I suffered terrible harassment every time I went out in public. One day at my job the male employees all got talking about my breasts while we were getting ready to close for the day. They were making crass comments. I was determined to be cool, so I tried to turn the conversation. “No, but seriously,” I said, “it’s a real problem. I can’t go out in public. I am ashamed going to the beach and can’t find a swimsuit that fits. I can’t do sports anymore.”
“Sure!” laughed my boss, “You’d get two black eyes!” I remember going to the back of the shop and crying as I got the mop bucket ready. By this time in my life I was already suffering from PTSD. The next time I went to work I took a lawyer. We informed my boss that what he had said was sexual harassment and if he did anything like it again I would sue him. He stuttered and perseverated. I repeated myself clearly. He said he understood. We left it there. I was 16. I’d just threatened my first employer with a lawsuit. I never hesitated to do it again.
‘I Think You Brought It On Yourself’
I use to be one of the only girls working in a warehouse. The guys were constantly in “locker room talk” and one day it got wildly out of hand. I politely asked the guys to stop talking so crudely. And to think of what they would feel like if those things were said about their own daughters. They started making crude comments including how I was “jealous since I was a virgin.” When they didn’t stop I went to the manager and asked that she talk to them about the way they talk around me. She replied “I think you brought it on yourself by asking them to stop. I won’t ask them to stop being guys.”
‘You Look Good on Your Knees’
My first job as a legal secretary was in 2002. I worked for a senior partner at one of the oldest, most respected law firms in town. He was very old fashioned, calling me in his office to get him coffee, or to ask me to pull a client’s file for him. After working there for several months he began to make offensive comments, such as the time I was kneeling to file paperwork in the bottom drawer in the filing room. He came around the corner, stopped, and exclaimed “You look good on your knees. That’s a good position for for you.” I left the firm because of him and promised myself I would never work in those conditions again.
This Trump Moment Has Freed Lots of Women
I’m an assistant professor. Last week, in a graduate seminar, one of the male students who is older that the other students remarked to me in front of the class, “I love how excited you get about ideas!” This was in response to my rather long clarification of a conceptual question that came up in the class discussion. I did not know what to say on the spot, but I turned red and felt I needed to apologize. And apologize I did. I said that yes, I have always tried to be a bit distant and composed, but I have not succeeded in that—yet. During the break, I realized what I had done, and what happened; he had associated my intellectual abilities with excitement and emotion, so his comment was condescending, even if he did not mean it to be. At the beginning of the second part of the class, I called him out on it. I asked him bluntly, “I wonder if you would have said the same thing to me if I were a male professor.” He said, yes, absolutely, and turned to the others to ask for approval. The others did not make eye contact with him, and refused to comment. I told him I felt uncomfortable about his comment, and I wanted to address it right away, and then I moved the discussion to the readings. He was obviously upset, and at the end of class, he said, “I would have appreciated if you told me this in private, not in front of the others.” I replied, “Well, you said it in class, so I wanted to address it in class. I thought about that incident afterwards, and have realized why it made me feel strange.”
This Trump moment has freed lots of women to say whatever they damn well want to say whenever a remark has made them feel strange or uncomfortable.
I Felt Silenced
Once I was bending over to file some papers at a temporary job. My coworker walked in and proceeded to tell me all the things he “would love to do to me while I was bent over like that.” Then he proceeded to talk to me about his newborn and wife. Things like this kept happening at that job. I work in human resources. And I felt silenced because it was always a coworker in HR.
I Didn’t Tell Anyone About This
I was 15 years old and had my first job as a busser at a restaurant. My bosses were married to each other, and hired me before I even filled out the application. Being very grateful to have the job, and since I was a kid, I didn’t tell anyone about this besides my mother—until I heard Donald Trump boast about sexually harassing women because he was powerful enough to get away with it. The husband used to make lewd comments about me at work every day. One day I was told to help him hang a large banner outside the restaurant. The boss told me that if it was too hot outside, I could take my shirt off, and he wouldn’t mind. He emphasized this by grabbing my shirt and pulling it up hard enough to loosen it from my pants. I moved out of his reach but he kept stepping forward, trying to tug on my sleeves and insist I take it off. We were in the parking lot in front of the building and all these cars were driving by. Plus the restaurant windows were big and the blinds were all open. But no one saw what he was trying to get me to do. We were in public, but he knew he’d get away with it. The only thing that got him to stop was that I yelled at him to knock it off so I could get back to work. His goading was abhorrent and his authority gave him the confidence to terrorize me. I’ve never forgotten how dirty and afraid he made me feel.
A ‘Special Connection’ to Young Girls
At 15, I had my first job at a small town gift shop. The owner’s brother was 40, and used to come in when I was alone and tell me how I was mature for my age; that he had a “special connection” to young girls. He kept inviting me to spend time with him after work. I felt shame, I quit, and I didn’t tell anybody.
When I was 19, I worked nights as an usher for a theater. One night a manager who was in his 40s and married offered to drive me home. Instead he drove me to an empty car park and put his hand up my skirt. He said he just wanted to get to know me better. I jumped out of the car and ran. I’ve never told anybody about this.
After college, I wanted to go to law school and assist women in developing nations with microloans. I got an internship at a prestigious financial firm, which I thought would look good on my resume. My first day I was introduced to a floor of traders as “fresh meat.” I was groped in the elevator and in line at the cafe. I stopped wearing skirts and was told I looked too sloppy. I wore skirts again and was once reduced to tears in front of a group of businessmen because I was told my “slutty schoolgirl” look was distracting. Finally, someone literally grabbed my pussy at a Christmas party. At that point, I decided finance and law wasn’t for me. I was 21. I quit, and never told anybody about that either.
I’ve learned to not smile too much or be too friendly with men in any work environment. I’ve been called “icy,” but it’s better than the alternative. I suppose I still blame myself for what happened and definitely feel shame.
I Just Wanted It to Go Away
My first job out of college was at an advertising agency. The creative director had a drinking problem and was an egomaniac who wore shorts in the winter and peed in a female senior account employee’s plant everyday. In the first two months at the job, he commented on my breasts on numerous occasions (one-on-one and in a group). He even chased me around a desk at one time. This was my first office job. He was known for this type of behavior. I reported him to the president (who was a woman). This was 1993 and there were sexual harassment stories in the news from time to time. The management team was terrified that I would press charges. I didn’t. But looking back, I should have. At the time, I just wanted it to go away so I could get on with my career. That feeling of being intentionally sexualized because I am a woman is always with me.
I Was Propositioned Many Times
When I was 20, I got a job as a waitress at a pizza restaurant. I can’t remember when or why it came up but my coworkers found out that I was still a virgin. They began referring to me as “The Virgin” instead of by my name. Most things they said to me after that were sexual in nature. I was propositioned many times by the men there to have them “pop my cherry.” I hated this kind of attention and found it to be really embarrassing but any of my attempts to speak up and ask them to lay off were met with more jokes. Once one of the delivery drivers actually pushed me up against the wall and put his hands on my vagina over my pants. Then he said we should head to the bathroom to fuck. Even as this was happening to me I thought, “Oh he’s just joking. He doesn’t really want to.” His girlfriend worked there too and I thought surely he couldn’t be serious about having sex with me. Another time that same driver came up to me while I was off the clock, eating dinner in one of the booths with my siblings. I knew he was going to say something inappropriate so I leaned in and whispered, “This is my big brother sitting next to me, please, please don’t say anything gross right now.” Then he preceded to make a comment about me not wearing panties. Even though I was uncomfortable with it, I didn’t really think I was getting sexually harassed at the time. I just figured I should just get over it.
Sexually Harassed for More Than Half My Life
There were so many times during my life that I was subjected to lewd and lascivious behavior by men. I was raped by my younger brother in my teens, and by a high school senior when I was a junior. Then, working for a law firm in my early 20s in Washington DC, one of the young lawyers constantly spoke to me in a suggestive way, to the point of stalking me. I also worked at a large corporation in my early 30s where I was often sexually harassed by the young executives. I am in my early sixties now and I would say that I was sexually harassed for more than half of my life. The abuse has led to a lifelong self-esteem problem, generalized anxiety disorder, broken heart syndrome, and multiple years of therapy.
‘It’s Just Words’
“It’s just words.” Well, here are some words:
“When are you and I going to fuck?” My assistant strength coach in college propositioned me as I tried to complete my workout. I was an honors student and athlete who earned a scholarship. He was someone I had to encounter anytime I went into the weight room, many days a week.
“No! No! No! Stop!” These were words I screamed to my coworkers in the lobby of an Embassy Suites as one held me down on the couch while another tore off my shoe and sock and sucked my toes. The VP of sales sat there and watched along with five others. The only other woman was seated next to me and was able to jump over the back of the couch and run to her husband.
“Don’t stay out alone with any of those sales guys.”
These words were advice given to me by a former employee when I started a new job. I took her advice. One of my coworkers wasn’t so lucky. One of those sales guys put his hand down her pants in a cab full of people. I was deposed in her sexual harassment case (one of at least three cases settled out of court by that company). The sales guy was promoted.
There Isn’t Anything I Can Do About It
I work for a company that works with the Department of Mental Health. We have an individual that has sexually harassed me (stalked me in the workplace, stared at me with a large grin on his face inappropriately, sang lewd “lyrics” to his “raps” in my direction, and has written notes stating his intentions to “have” me as his “woman”). I feel there isn’t anything I can really do about it except quit because he is protected by the department and he wouldn’t serve any time for his inappropriate behavior. He’s even physically attacked a female staff member (in anger) and faced no repercussions for his actions.
I Was So Humiliated
I work for a state university as a marketing and communications professional. The division head has let a lot of inappropriate things happen. One male coworker would always joke about how I wear skirts to work. One day when he and I happened to walk by each other on the way to the water fountain, he made a joke about me being in a skirt and then said, “You know how good you look [to everyone], right?” I was so surprised to hear him so I just said, “What?” Then he said, “Well everyone with a penis.” I was so humiliated even though I knew nobody was around, which somehow made it even worse. I’d recently gotten promoted by his boss, and until that boss left I was convinced that I only got promoted because they thought about me a certain way. I still have to see that budget assistant from time to time. I always try to walk another way if I see him coming and subconsciously always tug my skirt down a little or shield myself in some way.
I Understand How a Woman Must Feel
As a young man in my twenties I was approached by older women (I was a newly married young man). One cornered me and the other grabbed. I was shocked me at the time. Both of these women turned against me after I rebuffed their advances. I do understand how a woman must feel.
I Blamed Myself
I was sexually harassed at my first job. I worked at a restaurant, and there was a large freezer that stored food items. Once, I was getting something from it when the head chef walked in. I am used to the flirtatious comments that are often directed at me. Although they bother me, I write them off. However, this was different. As he walked in, he cornered me and blocked the exits. He began to tell me how he found me attractive and talked in innuendos. This man was at least 50 years old, and I was only 18. I was too afraid to tell him that I was uncomfortable. I had lost my voice. As he slowly advanced toward me, someone walked in. He moved aside quickly, and I dashed out of there as fast as I could. I still, to this day, am extremely disappointed in myself. I have always believed that women should stick up for themselves, but I could not even do that for myself. I questioned and blamed myself for letting him talk to me in such an inappropriate way. I hate that I let him make me feel like I wasn’t the victim.
Demeaned and Diminished
Once at a center I managed, a man who taught there grabbed my breasts out of the blue. My predecessor’s breasts were also grabbed (out of the blue) by the owner of the same center.
The thing is, this was about shock and a power play. No one is going to believe you (certainly not the owner who does the same thing), so you are demeaned and diminished. And you are further demeaned and diminished every time you see or hear about that person again.
I Was Afraid of Losing My Job
I was 18, it was my first day of work at a large national family restaurant chain. My manager asked me to follow him into the dry storage room for “training.” In that small room he repeatedly brushed up against my backside and told crude jokes, including one about how he “masturbates to the Exorcist.” I never told anyone because I was afraid of losing my new job. That terrible job helped put me through college. I now have a master’s degree and work in a professional environment where I feel respected and safe.
It’s a Part of Life All Women Deal With
When I was a teenager my first job was at a Wendy’s. I was the salad bar girl. A manager followed me into the walk-in cooler, when I turned to face him he began to unbutton my shirt. I was 16 and frozen in shock, I didn’t know what to do. Thankfully another female employee walked in before it went any further but it was also humiliating because the look on her face made me feel like she thought I was OK with his actions. I told her otherwise after I left the walk-in. I never reported the incident as I was dating another manager (in his 20’s) and didn’t want him to be fired (because the assaulting manager knew this). These things aren’t an everyday occurrence but I have experienced enough of them over the years to know it’s a part of life all women deal with and mostly ignore, because if you complain you’re an uptight “bitch.”
They Rescinded My Job Offer
I worked at a fly-in fishing just north of Anchorage, Alaska. At first I just cleaned cabins but by my fourth summer I managed the lodge, a 90-hour/week job with responsibilities in accounts, licenses, employee documents, merchandise, serving, bartending, and more. I worked incessantly and I loved the guests and my colleagues. I watched bears for amusement, and the guides taught me to fly fish.
In the first three years, only once did a guide harass me. Tearfully, I told one lodge owner, who said if the guide did it again, he’d “burn him to the ground.” Then in the fourth summer a drunken guest told me what he knew about female anatomy. Another time, while I gathered dinner plates, a guest grabbed at me, holding my butt for a few seconds. Stunned, I told the owner. “They’re unreasonable,” he said. I called the other owner. “If it happens again, just call me and I’ll talk him down,” he said. He lived far away. The owners asked me to return for a fifth summer. I said I would, but I wanted a sexual harassment policy. They claimed they had one – to tell them of incidents – which I did. I said they needed a written policy to protect the lodge we all loved. They didn’t create a policy. They just rescinded my job offer.
He Told Me Dirty Stories
I was thrilled to get a job at major ad agency in Seattle in the late ’80’s. There, I got daily visits from one of the creative directors to my workspace—he sat and told me dirty stories and made nasty gestures. Everyday. My boss also made sure that I knew that our jobs were dependent not only on putting up with this behavior, but also on our portrayal of enjoyment of it. I lasted until my wedding date.
It Was So Scary
I was 18 and had my first job as a hostess at an Italian restaurant. A few of the cooks and dishwashers would always stare and try to “accidentally” rub against the waitresses. The men spoke limited English, so the waitresses that also spoke Spanish would tell them off when they touched them and the men would just laugh. It was a daily occurrence. One evening I had to go into the cold storage for something, thus walking by one of the creepy dishwashers. He rubbed my arm and smiled as I walked by. I told him to stop, jerked my arm away and went into the cold storage, leaving the door ajar. Well, he closed the door on me. He probably only left me there for a few minutes, but it was so scary.
Harassment Seems Unavoidable
I’m 20 and work as a waitress at a restaurant and am also a full-time student. The restaurant is an independently owned business. The two co-owners are men, and the managerial staff is three men and a woman. On my first day of training, my trainer (male) asked me if I had a boyfriend, I said no, he told me “everyone would be hitting on me.” Comments about my appearance from him and other male coworkers have been going since day one (a little over a year ago), I almost quit in my first week when I was so embarrassed and upset by the way he spoke to me. My bosses always find reason to touch me, hands on shoulders, hugs, hands on my waist. They often talk about women’s bodies in the restaurant and stare at butts and boobs of the women on staff. One of my managers talks often about how he has seen me on Tinder, always swipes right, and wont stop pressing the issue of me going out to dinner with him (NO). I can’t afford to quit, and I didn’t really find my voice until I finally started venting about this problem with one of my female co-workers. We both share a feeling of invisibility. The harassment seems unavoidable. I feel stupid being upset by these things. I don’t know how to make them understand what they are doing without them just talking shit about me. I’ll be the “bitch” on staff or hypersensitive if I say something. It wouldn’t be the first time a female quit (in my year there) because a higher-up male made the work environment too uncomfortable for her.
‘I Was Staring At Your Ass’
It was my second job ever, working at a book store. I was 18 when I started and I was super excited to be there. He was the assistant manager and the first person I met the day I came in for the interview. He gave me the creeps from day one, but I told myself I was just being dumb. It was a quirky little bookshop and all the people who worked there were a little off. I mostly worked nights and it would just be the two of us. At first he just turned everything I said into a sexual joke. And I thought, whatever. Guys do that. I was setting myself up for them. I just needed to be more careful about what I would say. Soon though he was making comments about my body, and why I only did well at my job because of how I looked, that people only liked me because I was a “chesty redhead.” I would try to ask him pertinent questions and he would say things like “sorry I didn’t hear you, I was staring at your ass.” Thankfully he never truly got physical (though not for lack of trying) and when I came back from school over break he had been fired for stealing. I wish I had had the guts to report him then, but I was new at the job and didn’t want to cause trouble. The shame that surrounds work harassment is infuriating. Even after he was gone I was scared to speak out for fear of being called a liar. I wish this was the only story I had but two years later I could write a book, most women in this country probably could.
I Needed the Job, So I Stayed
It was my freshman year of college on my first day at work at a new job. Upon meeting my manager, I barely got a ‘hello’ before receiving the head-to-toe creeper sweep. I needed the job so I stayed, but always kept my distance from him. Several years later at a, “more professional” job, it was my last day and one of the older men I worked with said to me “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you have a really nice rack.” I immediately told my manager, who was a woman. I was hoping for support and was told to “just ignore him.” These and other experiences have made me feel humiliated and powerless. No one seemed to care that my male colleagues were saying and doing inappropriate things.
I Hate Myself For It
I was in an entry level consulting job in Canada and was on a foreign work permit tied to my employer. One of the company principals at a social event kissed me and groped me without my permission after a few drinks. “To get me home safely” he called me a cab, and rather than drop me off at my place, he invited himself in. I was broke and needed the job. I had literally bought a one-way ticket to Canada and was living paycheck to paycheck. How do I tell this man to go home to his wife without hurting his pride and my job prospects? Despite my best efforts to send him home, he comes into my home, but fortunately we just talk. I tried to understand what I did to make him think that I invited this behavior. The next week, he tried to get me to have an affair with him, and I refused. A few months later he asks he if I want a “quickie in the alley.” To this day he still thinks he did nothing wrong and I still work with him. I hate myself for it.
Refuse to Stay Silent
I was 26 years old and eager to make my mark on the world when I was hired by a professional football team to be the assistant to the general manager. I was also assigned a senior executive to supervise and mentor me—a babysitter. One day I was in the babysitter’s office, talking about my weekend. I mentioned I’d had lunch “with a friend.” His reply still turns my stomach: “Did he make you orgasm?” That was Week 3 on the job. I had just relocated and couldn’t afford to walk away. I kept the exchange to myself and hoped the babysitter would interpret from my cold demeanor that his behavior needed to stop. But as the months passed, he became more aggressive. He would stare openly at my breasts, legs, and butt, and compliment how my outfit accentuated my assets. Sometimes he would approach me while I was seated at my desk, sliding along one side and looking down my shirt. After a few seconds, he would smile, blush red, and say he “had to go be alone.” I often left the office feeling ashamed, disgusted, and violated.
It was three years before I summoned the nerve to tell my boss. One Christmas Eve at work, the Babysitter gave me a box filled with a holiday-themed Victoria’s Secret lingerie set. The next day I went to my boss’s home to eat Christmas dinner. Over wine, his wife asked me my feelings on this man. “He’s so creepy,” she said. “Has he ever come on to you?” I found myself leading her to my car to view the package. Appalled, she demanded I tell her husband. So on the day after Christmas, in my boss’s office I poured out the contents of the inappropriate gift and asked for his help. He instructed me to return the gift, promising he would “take care of it.”
Human Resources was never notified, and the Babysitter seemed only fueled by my complaint. Special privileges I thought I’d earned with my work ethic were suddenly rescinded. The entire staff was eventually fired as the result of a regime change. My former boss now runs another team, and the man who harassed me is making six figures working for the former head coach in a different setting. Me? I am still trying to make my mark. Ladies: Do not endure this harassment. You do not have to tolerate this posture by men, or anyone. Learn from my mistake, and refuse to stay silent.
The Battle For Respect Is Constant
I’ve endured many unwanted advances during my forty years as an architect. My first bosses took me out to a farewell dinner and slapped two condoms on the table at the end of the dinner and begged me to sleep with them. I was 21. A married general contractor waltzed into that same office one day and grabbed me and kissed me passionately on the lips. An elderly gentleman shared a coffee with me near Lincoln Center and then, as we said goodbye, he grabbed me and shoved his tongue down my throat. On it went. Even in my early 50s, a married client mistook my interest in his project as an interest in sex. When I turned down his fourth invitation for drinks, my firm was fired from the project. The battle for respect is constant. Hillary, in her perfect, stalwart politeness, is me.
I Was Mortified
I was in my first year at my firm, in a conference room at a client site. The head of trading operations group, who looked to be nearing retirement (and almost my grandfather’s age), strolled into the conference room and tossed a couple of Mardi Gras bead necklaces onto the conference room table towards me and laughingly exclaimed as he immediately turned to leave “You know what to do with these!” I was wearing a pant suit. Some of my male colleagues were in the conference room. I was mortified. In a male-dominated firm, in a male-dominated industry I decided it was easier to brush those type of instances off and ignore them. I think my firm’s HR might have consoled me on the experience, but I’m not sure if the team’s leadership would have felt comfortable addressing the incident to the client.
I’ve Never Experienced Sexual Aggression Before
I used to work in an in-house cafe for a TV station. I was friendly with everyone, it was part of my job. One day one of the TV station executives invited me to his area of the station, his friends were around, he had a massive TV on top of a set of drawers. The drawers were full of as-yet unreleased films (like, not in the cinema yet) and he suggested that if I was ever bored on a weekend I could come over, reach into his drawers and see if I liked what I found. Hilarious. All his friends thought so. I saw the funny side but I’ve never experienced sexual aggression before, so I was confused. Most heterosexual guys don’t get sexually harassed.
Grin and Bear It
At my first job in my field, a much older male coworker would often come over to my desk to “chat,” sometimes squeezing or rubbing my arm and ruffling my hair. Once, during a massive heat wave, he commented that I was wearing “some short shorts” and offered me an extra pair of pants he kept in his desk drawer “in case you get cold.” (The office had a very lenient dress code—shorts were not unusual.) I declined, but he threw the pants to me across the office anyway. I had just enough time to look up at the sound of my name before they hit me in the face and then fell in my lap. It was so absurd I almost forgot it was creepy. When I told my boss about several of these uncomfortable interactions, she brushed it off and assured me he was just a “goofy, friendly guy.” So I did my best to just grin and bear it. On the day he retired (about a year after I started working there) he came over to my desk one last time, grabbed my shoulder and loudly invited me over to his house to “watch a movie.” At my stunned silence, he leaned close to my ear and whispered, “I’ve wanted to ask you that for a long time, but I couldn’t while I was working here.” He then spun around, pumped his fist and shouted, “Exit interview!” before (thankfully) walking out of my life forever.
These Are Samples, Not Standout Events
In my first job as a lawyer I had a boss who would burst into my office every day, shut the door, stare at me menacingly and say, “I need to have a word with you.” Then he would ask bizarre personal questions, about how much I slept or if I’d done my hair differently. One day he came in unannounced, shut the door, and asked, “Did your heart just skip a beat when I did that?” Another time he told me that my knee-length suit skirts were distracting, because “You have very long legs, so there is just a lot of leg between the floor and the skirt.” He once reported that the judges in a hearing were bothered by me because I was “too poised, too confident.” I did not, and do not believe any judge made any such complaint. One day he asked me, in front of staff and clients in the waiting room, if I was anorexic, then told me I should eat some watermelon. These are samples, not standout events.
My case load was more than twice that of the next-highest in the office and I made less than male lawyers junior to me. My boss publicly and rudely derided my tiniest mistakes. I learned not to make any. And yet when it came time to pick out a new office down the hall with the other senior lawyers, he told me I could not. He said I had to stay next to his office where he could “monitor” me. After several years, I got a competitive and desirable job offer somewhere else. I accepted it. As I left the old office, my boss refused to shake the hand that I held out.
I Reported the Comment. Nothing Happened
Many years ago when I was consulting for a large audio company, the COO made multiple advances toward me, pulling up my skirt a few inches and asking me to lean over him to show him something on his computer. I started coming to meetings with baggy clothes and no makeup to look as unappealing as possible. One time he asked me to take my glasses off. He knew I was engaged to be married but it didn’t stop him making personal comments whenever we were alone in his office. Once, when I refused to go to a business dinner he invited me to, he said, “You think I’m a sexual predator, don’t you?” I reported him to my company (not his) and the response was minimal. Eventually I moved out of state and took a different job and it was a relief that he no longer contacted me.
At the consulting firm I worked for just after earning my MBA from Columbia, a senior exec would call me Mrs. [his last name] and tell me he’d give me anything I wanted. He never tried to touch me but I felt awkward around him, knowing he thought of me as a sex object and not a professional. His comments stopped when I called my fiancé from his office on speakerphone.
When I was a senior executive at a tech company in Silicon Valley, a senior engineer bluntly told me he hated marketing people and thought women were stupid. I reported the comment to the CEO and nothing happened. The engineer was considered too valuable to fire, or even scold.
I Am Suffering Scars
I am a man who was stationed in Japan for 4 years. The person who was supposed to be my mentor and show me the ways of the ship sexually assaulted me for three years of my tour. He had other victims too, and eventually it went to court. He was found not guilty for “lack of evidence.” And probably because he has a family. Justice was not served, and to this day I am suffering the scars of that experience: PTSD, severe depression, anxiety, flashbacks of the assaults, night terrors. I have to live with it. I go to school and no one will ever know.
Not Long After, He Fired Me
I was travelling to Moscow from New York with my boss. About an hour into the flight, he pulled a big envelope from his bag and said he had some things he wanted me to go over before we arrived. Then he dumped out a dozen or so letters and nude photos of Russian women he’d solicited before we left. I speak Russian; he did not. He told me it was part of my job to sort out with whom he should meet up during the trip. After we arrived, he invited me to dinner in what turned out to be a notorious strip club, where he expected me to haggle down the price of the prostitute he wanted to take home. Not long after, he fired me.
Years later, I was working for a UN agency. Our team went out for drinks one night, and walking back to the bus stop, my boss asked me back to his place for a threesome with him and his wife. I refused and he never mentioned it again. But he still called me late at night, drunk, to leave vile message in which he claimed (and it sounded like) he was masturbating. I complained through proper channels, and his supervisor said I did not have to comply with his suggestions, but I did have to respect him professionally. I organized my own transfer out of the department.
It’s hard out there.
He Pawed Me Under the Table
My first experience of work harassment was in my second job and it involved one of the two company directors. I was in my early 20s and incredibly naïve about that sort of thing. I remember the director flattering me and somehow talking me into going back to his hotel room, which was when the alarm bells went off that he was interested in a hook-up instead of worrying about my career prospects. I managed to extricate myself without being mauled, but the experience really shook me to the core. Eventually I confided to my direct boss who went straight to the director and told him to “keep his hands off me,” and implied I was actually his territory (though he never came near me like that).
My second ugly experience came not long after I had moved back to my home country. I took a job in a predominantly male industry but was lucky to have really great coworkers. The problem was my gold-toothed sales manager. At one point he suggested installing CCT in my office “to make sure I was safe” when my colleagues were out on a call. The crunch came when we met for what I thought was a working dinner, only to find it was just the two of us. He proceeded to paw me under the table all through dinner and I was doing my best to move my body away from his but we were in a relatively small space. I was fuming when it came time to leave and decided he needed a bit of a lesson so I floored it all the way home. I dumped him at his hotel and high-tailed it out of there. Within a week I had submitted my resignation.
It Was Beyond Humiliating
At work I had two older men tell me I looked better in heels and dresses. One really older man always ogled me whenever I walked by him and whenever he walked by my cube he would take the time to stop in and look me up and down. It all made me want to wear baggy parkas. I still feel uncomfortable wearing form-fitting clothing or clothing that reveals my legs.
In college I had a personal trainer who was also a family friend. I had known him for a year when I scheduled a sports massage at my apartment. While I was totally naked he climbed on top of me and tried to force having sex with me. I kept saying no but he wouldn’t stop and I felt powerless. Thankfully he never penetrated me (sad that I have to be grateful for that) and just came on my body. It was beyond humiliating, disgusting, disrespectful, and dehumanizing. I felt like it was my fault for letting him into my house and being naked, but then I remembered no male athlete would ever have to think that so why should I?
Afterward, I spoke to my aunt who is a lawyer but she didn’t believe me at first and wanted to “hear his side of the story.” This broke my heart in a way I can’t explain. When she did give me advice it was that the legal system would be stacked against me, they would make it sound like my fault, it would be my word against his word, and I would have to see him constantly throughout the long process. We decided it wasn’t worth it to pursue legal justice. I still worry about the kids and young adults he has trained and still trains—how many have stories like me?
A male boss once called me into a boardroom to scold me for something (I can’t remember what now); I sat down and he sat in the chair directly beside me, pulled it close then pushed and rubbed his legs against mine. Whatever I was in “trouble” for, he wanted me to know he knew I was a “good girl” and not to disappoint him again. At the same job, another boss (I had several) commented on the length of my tongue when I jokingly stuck it out at someone else. I quit shortly thereafter.
He Laughed It Off As ‘Joking Around’
In 2010 when I was 21, I worked as a low-level manager in a primarily male office where I was young enough to be everyone’s daughter. There was one manager who, while not above me in seniority, was capable of making my job very difficult if he wanted to. As a result, I often put up with his crude behavior in an effort to make my own life easier; not to mention I was wet behind the ears and petrified of losing my job. He often made sexually suggestive comments or jokes to me when we were alone, and liked to stand very close while I sat at my desk so that his crotch was uncomfortably positioned well within my personal space. One day he came up behind me and grabbed my ass roughly and then laughed it off as “joking around.” When I got up the nerve to complain to our boss, I was admonished for “acting very childishly” because I refused a face-to-face confrontation with this manager alone in the privacy of his office. I was so upset by how they were turning him into the victim that I confided about the incident with another female coworker. It turned out the same manager had physically pinned her against a wall a month earlier with a full erection. It took her added complaint to get him fired but, in the end, he was let go for not reaching profit margins in his day-to-day duties. The reasoning my boss gave me? He felt that a man with a wife and young children didn’t deserve the stigma of a sexual harassment claim. Meanwhile, the incident dogged me for the remaining two years I worked there and was often joked about openly.
He Told Me How Hot I Was
One night during conference season, my team lead drunk texted me. I responded, thinking it was a last-minute ask for something he couldn’t complete. Instead, he told me how drunk he was, how hot I was, and what he would do to me if I was at the conference with him. He called me 12 times after I stopped responding to his texts (and told him to go to bed) before I blocked him. Despite reporting him, and him having some very minor consequences, he still acts like nothing ever happened, and doesn’t know why I don’t hang out with him or the team anymore after my required work hours.
I Was Afraid For My Safety
I was hired late in the school year to take over a few junior and high school English classes. I was a young and inexperienced teacher and I was assured that I’d be supported. I was not.
A few months in, an 18-year-old student began to sexually harass me in and out of class. When I brought it up with the administration I was shut down. Things escalated until the student grabbed me by the arm hard enough to leave bruises while he kissed me on the cheek in front of the class. He then whispered a threat. I was afraid for my safety.
Two days later I was beckoned to the office where the principal asked me if I had an inappropriate relationship with a student. I said of course not and offered to show him my phone and emails. I explained the harassment and how I felt unsafe. Instead of dealing with it, he encouraged me to quit. So I listened to him; I quit that day, effective immediately.
A week later I got a call from a friend who worked at the school, confronting me. The school’s rumor mill was on fire at that I’d been fired for having an affair with a student. I was heartbroken. The administration (all men) did nothing and let it escalate. To this day, many people in the small town I live in believe I was fired for having an affair with a student when the real story is I quit for fear of my safety. The whole thing felt like sexism at its highest level. I will never get over it. My good name was tarnished and I will be dealing with the psychological effects for the rest of my life. I’ve always been afraid to tell my story, but I owe it to women to do it.
He Could Get Away With This
During my early 30s, I was attending an institutional investor conference in Seattle as a hedge fund marketer. After the conference dinner ended, I was standing by the bar with a couple of my industry peers when the CIO of a large public plan approached us and stared me up and down. He then said to me, “I would recognize those legs anywhere” in front of a number of my peers. I was mortified, but probably just laughed it off. You get used to trying to not make people feel uncomfortable even when they make you so uncomfortable you want to crawl out of your own skin. Realizing that he could get away with this sort of behavior, at events that followed, his behavior escalated, asking me if he could kiss me to telling me he wanted to sleep with me. There is nothing—no sort of training or mentoring—that prepares you for how to handle these sorts of situations in your career.
Not long after that I was interviewing for a director level role at a hedge fund. I had a two year-old son at the time and during the interview process, the founder of this multi-billion distressed credit hedge fund asked me to promise that I would not have another child during the next 18 months. I will paraphrase here: “The next 18 months in distressed debt are bloody important, and I need to know that you will be focused on this next fundraise.” Not knowing what else to say, I just nodded yes. I am embarrassed to admit that I accepted the job. I should have known better. During my miserable year at the firm, I repeatedly heard senior men refer to me as some 30-something “girl,” among many other belittling comments.
This Is the Culture
In 2014, I was a young, female engineer working at a construction site in a foreign country. Toward the end of the year at a company party, one of my married supervisors, visibly drunk, came up to me to give me a hug and grabbed my behind in front of everyone. I was mortified.
That Monday at work he apologized, saying he heard he had been inappropriate. I accepted. Tuesday, he came up to me saying everyone was talking about what he did. Since I hadn’t told anyone, and the bystanders were trusted colleagues, it had to have been him spreading rumors. I told him to drop it. Wednesday, holding a door opened for me he said, “Don’t worry, this time I won’t grab your ass on your way out.” At this point I snapped, saying he better not because I’d kick his ass if he tried. He was stunned.
I consulted multiple people about whether I should make a report. The advice I got was to keep quiet—it’s the construction industry and this is the culture.
A month later, some co-workers and I ran into this manager at a bar. I told him to stay away, but on his way out he ran past me to grab my behind again. I spent my Christmas conflicted as to whether I should quit my job and move back home. I was miserable.
January, he started constantly coming up to me to ask me how I was doing. This was my breaking point—I reported it. HR said they’d investigate and two weeks later he was fired. But because the events happened outside the workplace, the company wouldn’t pursue it further and told me I could make a harassment claim with the city.
I wish had reported it sooner but I’m so happy I did. Unless we speak up, the culture will never change.
It’s Been Brutal
My entire career—18 years in Fortune Top 50 companies, hospitality, biotech and now local government—I have been stalked, harassed, sexually harassed, bullied, demeaned and verbally assaulted. I work now on a team of 10 men in IT; it’s been brutal. One young man punched me so hard in my back I lost my breath. He also kicked me in my butt several times too. HR did absolutely nothing, they never do. They say I imagined it (he said-she said deal) and to call the health insurance nurse hotline. I’m exhausted and never want to work again.
He Just Wanted to Scare Me
In my 20s I got a job working at a sales office for a mobile phone company. None of the salesmen would speak to me or help me to learn the ropes. Finally, my boss forced one of the salesmen to take me on the road with him to visit customers. This salesman spent the entire trip telling me why women were inferior and that I didn’t belong in the business. Instead of going to the hotel where we were to spend the night, he kept driving into what seemed to be the open farm country. He told me he was going to “have his way with me” and kept driving. I was thinking to myself that when he stopped the car, I would open the door and run. As it turned out, he was taking me to a neighborhood baseball game; he just wanted to scare me. He said he would deny everything if I told the boss.
‘Pants? Not Acceptable!’
In 1981 I was working in New York as a young sales manager for a large hotel chain. I was dedicated and wanted to perform well so I could move up to the marketing office for the region. I was well qualified, with a marketing and media background, but was told had to learn the hotel business first. So I started booking everyone that walked in the door—I was a star, according to my boss in my review.
One Sunday night in February, we had a massive snowstorm that dropped more than 20 inches; when I woke up Monday morning it was still snowing. Although the media was telling people to stay off the roads, I got up, dressed in leather boots, wool pants, a blouse, cardigan sweater vest with a black blazer over it and cute little bow tie (It was Annie Hall days after all). I arrived to work just a few minutes late, after trudging through drifts of snow from the employee parking lot.
My boss greeted me as I walked in. No other sales people were there (and none arrived the whole day). But what was the first thing he said to me? Was it, “Wow, thanks for coming in”? Nope.
“Pants? Not acceptable!” He spit out the words, as if I had just committed murder in front of a group of children. Shocked, I stuttered for a moment before regaining my composure. Finally I said, “When you come into work in a raging snowstorm in high heels and a skirt, then I will, too. Until then, be happy with what you’ve got – I’m here!”
Needless to say, I didn’t get the promotion to the marketing office.
A Lifetime of Harassment
Age 11-12, walking home form the corner drugstore, small small rural town, old white man in a white truck stopped near me and said he wanted to take me in the bushes and tear my pussy up. I was terrified and ashamed—ran home and hid under my bed so he couldn’t find me
Teens, college professor took me out to lunch after a girlfriend of mine was killed in a car-train accident. In the car he leaned over me to get something from glove compartment and tried to kiss me. Married man
In my 20s, the main print vendor for my company promised to expedite my print jobs only if I would go out with him. This was a married man. Stupid me, I did but dragged my sister along for safety. Later told my boss and he fired the vendor.
In my 30s pregnant, the backup obstetrician twisted my nipples (nurse not present) to “make sure I would be able to breastfeed.”
The Shame and Embarrassment Are Still There
I was 24, in the first year of my first job. I managed a library room, so other employees had access to the space but mine was the only desk.
A coworker in his late 40s came behind me while I was typing. Before I could do anything, he had reached down to grab my breasts—one in each hand as if he were clutching oranges. He had my elbows pinned so I couldn’t move my arms more than a couple inches. His head was over my shoulder and his face by my ear. I don’t recall what he said but I do remember the shock, fear, surprise and embarrassment. He held me for maybe 10-15 seconds, then made some sort of joke and left.
I was a small-built girl and I did not believe in showing any cleavage at all in the workplace. I found out later the girls in the office called him “octopus hands.” He we a well-liked, popular employee who had been there for 20 years so I said nothing when it happened to me, because with less than a year on the job I knew it would be me terminated, not him.
This was in the 80s. I am now in my 50s. I bear him no ill will. But the incident I remember like it was yesterday. The shame and embarrassment are still there but worn down like a rock without the sharp edges anymore. The hardest thing was keeping it secret. I held that job for 8 years and told my husband about the incident only when I was working at another place in another city. I have never written this down. It’s unbelievable to me how much this small act affected me deeply for years. I don’t think he realized he was harming women psychologically for the long-term. He groped, he got his feel, and then it was over for him.
I Was Always On Guard
While I was working at an ad agency, we had a client dinner that included drinks and then stopping at a bar. Toward the end of the night the lead creative guy from one of our client’s collaborating agencies asked me back to his room. I said, “You’re married and I’m gay.” He replied, “My wife understands,” and then asked, “How about we just do mutual masturbation?”
The next day I confided in my boss about what happened and she said to me, “Actually I’m kind of jealous he asked you and not me.” That was the end of the conversation. Every time I saw him after that event I was always on guard. He acted like it had never happened.
When I asked for more money because of the workload I was carrying, bringing in and managing more than $2.5m a year, my boss said to me “You are our highest paid account director, other than Jack, but Jack has a family.” Jack also used to work the account I now worked and did not double the revenue in the first year like I did.
Looking back now, I should have left, but I couldn’t see it for what it was. I thought I had made it and that was more important to me at the time. I now understand that’s how it is in the agency world and my self-worth is more important than having “made it.” I choose not to work in the industry anymore and do my own rainmaking for myself.