I picked an inopportune time to go radio silent what with the me too movement going on. It’s distressing, but not difficult to believe that 27 years after Anita Hill bravely testified and was systematically attacked by a panel of old white men, we are still talking about sexual harassment and gender inequality. I can add a really strenuous “me fucking too” to the chorus.
I have been assaulted, raped, sexually harassed, groped, cat-called, followed, bullied, threatened, kicked, punched, strangled, and not believed. I write anonymously because there are two men (read: monsters) out there who I don’t want to find me. One raped me repeatedly starting when I was seven years old, and the other physically and verbally abused me, and nearly killed me. Between the two of them, I have spent a decade in abuse. They are not the whole story; they were just the worst of the lot.
I had to leave a job in Boston because of sexual harassment. A vice president of the company I worked for felt that I belonged to him. He never physically harmed me, but he made my work life unbearable. I tried never to be alone with him, but sometimes it was unavoidable. He undressed me with his eyes and made lewd comments. He left inappropriate voicemails, which I recorded and played back for human resources. Even though I had audio proof of harassment, no one did anything, and eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore and quit.
Even now, in 2018, I have to deal with a salesperson who calls me “hon” in every interaction and another who calls me “sweetie.” I am not your “hon,” “sweetie,” “darling,” “dear,” or any other diminutive you choose to call me just because I’m female. They never call my male colleagues by supposed terms of endearment.
I am always cautious at work, partly because of my experience in Boston, partly because I work in a very misogynistic industry run by “good old boys.” When I started, there weren’t that many women. There are a lot more now, but still, change is slow. It’s a very small industry and everyone knows everyone, so one wrong move can get you blacklisted.
I have much respect for anyone who comes forward to expose abuse, both men and women, but particularly women since we have the most to lose. We are the most exposed and the most vulnerable. Women risk more on a daily basis than men will ever really be able to understand. Men can’t know the anxiety that women experience in even the most mundane situations. Most men will never experience the dread we feel walking into an untenable work situation.
Men can’t really appreciate how hazardous it can be just to be out in public. I’ve been called a “bitch” and a “dyke” when I declined advances (it couldn’t possibly be that I’m not interested in strange men approaching me for sex). I’ve been groped because I had the temerity to wear a skirt and heels in public. I’ve held my keys as a blunt and ineffectual stabby pseudo-weapon walking down the street at night. I’ve taken cab rides I couldn’t afford and decided what to wear for a night out based on how alone I would be. I’ve broken fingernails trying to defend myself. Have you?
Whenever I move to a new apartment, I find out where the nearest police station is out of habit. I’ve had to make use of that knowledge more than once. I’m lucky that I haven’t had to use public transportation as the only way to get anywhere. That many people trapped in a vehicle can be a recipe for danger, particularly late at night or when alcohol is involved. Still, driving a car can be just as hazardous. I’ve been followed home a few times. When that happens, I drive to the pre-sussed police station and park in front. That does the trick.
No matter how unsafe I feel in public, the absolute worst is feeling unsafe in my own home. I have, but don’t like living by myself. I like having another person around, because you’re less likely to be attacked if you’re not alone. Whenever I walk to my front door, no matter the time of day, I instinctively make sure no one is following me and I immediately lock the deadbolt behind me. I never leave my door unlocked. I have a gun, a big dog, and I sleep with a baseball bat propped up right next to my bed. Even though my dog is large and intimidating, I’m still wary walking her at night.
I applaud all the courageous people coming forward to expose their abusers, yet it makes me feel like a hypocrite, because I am still anonymous. Both of my abusers are still out there. Neither of them was ever punished for their crimes against me.
It’s not like I didn’t try. I told my parents about the sexual abuse as a kid. It continued and even escalated. I got a restraining order and filled out police reports when that asshole tried to kill me. He fled the state and now, the statute of limitations has run out.
I just wrote both of my abusers’ names here. And then, I erased it. Unlike Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford, I am not that courageous. If I expose them, I expose myself and I cannot do that. I am still too afraid. Decades later, I am still afraid.
I am sure they had other victims. It makes me angry and sad that I couldn’t prevent anyone else from going through what I went through. I couldn’t protect them. I know what monsters humans can be. I know how vulnerable women and children can feel. I know the fear and the anger and the shame. I know the terror of knowing that they are still out there. I know the courage it takes to speak out, even if anonymously. I can promise you this much, if either of them is ever up for a Supreme Court nomination, I will.