Women of my generation were raised to get along, to accommodate, to not make a scene, to think about the other’s feelings. Those are wonderful qualities—unless, by being accommodating you are giving up yourself, not trusting your intuition, not listening to yourself. For women born in the 50’s and 60’s the #metoo and #timesup movements were not a surprise. Personally, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been subjected to some form of sexual assault, sexual harassment or abuse. Working in a male dominated profession for 30 years, I definitely experienced sexual harassment in some form in nearly every law firm that I ever worked in. Even as I write these words, it is still hard to believe that this treatment of women was not addressed, I mean really exposed, until 2018. For the first time, I felt like there were real consequences for some of the men who engaged in this conduct.
This isn’t all men–of course, not everyone is a predator. But, there are predators everywhere. Not only on our streets and dark alleys and hallways and parking lots, but in our safe spaces-our homes, our schools, our churches and our athletics. Over 160 victims have come forward to accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse which spanned over 20 years. These brave women have had what should have been a joyous experience, tarnished, sullied and destroyed by a person who was placed in a position of trust. They were ignored.
Similarly, Jerry Sandusky abused dozens of boys that he groomed through his charity, The Second Mile. Again, boys were ignored by institutions charged with protecting them. In both situations, complaints had been made to authorities years before these predators were eventually held accountable. Threats, manipulation, instill fear in children. Ultimately, Penn State paid over $100,000,000 in settlements to victims of Jerry Sandusky. This is a failure on a massive level. And then of course, there is the Catholic Church. Thousands of victims while those charged with protecting vulnerable children looked the other way.
My Experience With A Predator
In 1970, when I was 18, I went on a job interview for an administrative position at a medical facility in Baltimore. I had basic secretarial skills, and it was an office job. The interview was held with a middle aged white man, in a large office, where I sat in a chair across from him. I don’t remember much of the conversation at all. I don’t remember talking about the job, my skills, my resume or anything that would have been relevant to the job.
What I remember, to this day, were the sounds. The sound of him unbuckling his belt and pulling out his penis and exposing himself to me. The sound of him explaining to me that he was doing that to make sure that I was comfortable around naked men because, due to the fact that it was a medical facility, I might accidentally encounter naked men. I remember the sound of my voice saying that of course, I understood his reason for exposing himself to me, because I needed a job and didn’t want to appear childish or unsophisticated.
He then blathered on about that, and then moved on to me. He said that he needed to do a quick exam of me, to be sure that I didn’t have any signs of drug abuse because, this was a medical facility and there were drugs, and they couldn’t employ anyone with a drug problem. I didn’t know exactly what that was going to entail, but tried to assure him that I didn’t have a drug problem. The next thing I heard, was the clang, clang of the cleaning cart. Yes, the appointment was set at the end of the day, and the cleaning crew had arrived to clean the office.
He quickly put his pants back on, and stood up and ended the interview. I left, not really knowing what had just occurred. I didn’t tell anyone, not my boyfriend, my friends, my mother, my sister and certainly didn’t call the police. I didn’t tell anyone. Why? At the time, I don’t know what the name was for what had just occurred. It felt gross, and I somehow felt ashamed, but didn’t really know that this was wrong, or that there was anyone who would have been interested in what had happened. I didn’t know that a man interviewing me for a position in a medical facility was not supposed to expose himself to me, because his explanation sounded so logical.
I was incredibly naïve, and didn’t even really understand that his story was his pattern, his grooming, his preparation. I didn’t even know that what he had said wasn’t true—that I needed to prove that I wouldn’t be freaked out by a penis, or that I was required to submit to a physical exam in the office to prove that I wasn’t a drug addict.
This was my first encounter with a sexual predator. Forty eight years later, I know that that cleaning crew saved me. A man who sets up interviews with young women late in the day and exposes himself is well on his way to sexual assault, battery and maybe even rape. I got so lucky, but I wonder about the next women who went in for an interview.
Women need to continue to pave the way for women. Just because you are an older woman who doesn’t have any reason to worry about birth control, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t stand up for the next generations of women. It isn’t just that women should have control over their own bodies, women should be able to make the decision about when they want to have children. That time is when they feel that they are physically, mentally, psychologically and financially ready to parent a child or children. Because, when we make women become parents before they can, children suffer. And children deserve parents that are ready for them.
So if you see an angry woman, ask why? What trauma has she suffered that wasn’t acknowledged or processed? What is your experience (that you are willing to share) with sexual assault or sexual harassment?