It was the year 1991. I was 24 years old and four months pregnant, but it did not appear. He had been in an abusive marriage for three years, not physical, but mental. I had been fired from my previous job and I needed this job. It was my first real job as a paralegal. It was a time when you could smoke in the office, right at your desk. He was 33 years old, a lawyer, head of the Legal Department and vice president of the company.
I was at this job for ONE WEEK and had to work late. I was sitting at my desk, alone in my office and without a word, she came in, grabbed my face and started kissing me. I was so shocked, paralyzed and unsure of what to do; I just waited for it to finish.
It ended almost as soon as it started and left my office, and I wondered if I had figured it all out. I packed my things for the day, left the office without saying a word, drove to my prenatal appointment, where my husband was waiting for me in the parking lot. Remember, our marriage was already on life support, but as soon as I saw him, the first thing I did was kiss him. He didn’t know what to do, he didn’t know how to say it, he was afraid to tell him and he was shaking like a leaf.
He demanded that I tell him what was going on, which shouldn’t be the first response when your wife kisses you, but it was in that relationship, so I told him. His reaction was one of anger. But the anger was not initially directed at my boss, but at me. How could you let something like this happen? What were you doing to encourage him to kiss you? After what seemed like a lifetime of being yelled at, he finally said, I’m going to talk to him. I begged him not to say anything, we really needed the job, I would take care of it and we would be late for the doctor’s appointment.
The next morning, after a half hour discussion with my husband informing me that I had BETTER deal with the situation, I drove to work wondering how the hell I was going to do that. I sat nervously at my desk, alone in my office when he walked in first thing in the morning. She started saying she was sorry and I blurted out “I’m pregnant.” I was a paralegal, so I knew I couldn’t fire myself and I was sure I wouldn’t do anything to a pregnant woman.
But I was skilled, I had done this before and I looked like prey. I was vulnerable. He was hungry for attention, compliments, and the assurance that he was smart. She told me every day that I was pretty and that since I was very good at my job, she kept giving me more and more important tasks. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, we were on the company private jet flying to an audience that I really had nothing to do with. That meeting ended in a hotel room, and that was the beginning of a four-year adventure.
I don’t remember who actually ended the adventure because in the end it was a shitty show. I was preparing to leave my husband, they accused him of embezzling company money, and I was under a cloud of suspicion, because “she was sleeping with him, how could she NOT know anything”, but not me. His wife left him, lost his license to practice law, lost his home, but managed to stay out of jail. I kept picking up the pieces of my life.
It took me years, and I mean years, to find my self-worth. Throughout those years I heard about women who were victims of sexual harassment, but I never considered myself as one of those women. I struggled with the fact that it turned into a long-term affair, so how could it be sexual harassment? It was the story on CNN that made me stop and wonder. A story so similar to mine that it brought back too many memories before I finished my morning coffee.
I am not yet willing to say that I was a victim of sexual harassment, but I am willing to say this; NO woman should be sitting at her desk and having to worry about some random guy coming in and kissing her. NO woman should feel worthless. NO woman should be afraid to report something to her superiors, for fear of losing her job. NO woman should be afraid to tell her husband about the bullying because he would get mad at her.
Tell someone that they are not okay and that you did not do anything wrong.