Don’t Stay Silent About Harassment
Having a pervert boss deeply affected me, and fortunately, I learned to not tolerate that kind of behavior and language ever again.
By Molly Flynn, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
When I turned 18 and graduated high school, I moved to the big city.
Not Big-Apple-sized big city, but compared to my tiny hometown that only had two stoplights, it was pretty big—thousands of stop lights kinda big. I moved into a cute cottage-style house with my sister and actually got a job at her company in Uptown. I was so excited and felt super fancy because my lunch breaks would now be spent dining in ritzy restaurants, and I could dress business chic.
But, I quickly realized that my job in finance was not so glamorous. Not to mention, I had absolutely no idea what my job even entailed. However, surprisingly enough, the reason why I left this position wasn’t because of my lack of training within my role, nor was it because I consistently spent half of my paychecks on lunches, but it was because my boss was an absolute perv.
Sadly, though, I didn’t realize his nasty comments to me and inappropriate invitations to come to his house and watch movies after work while his wife was away were considered sexual harassment. Keep in mind, this was my very first job. I had never waited tables in high school or learned how to incorporate “My Pleasure” into normal conversations through starting a Chick-Fil-A career at age 14. The working world was completely new to me and I wanted to start out strong, so accusing my boss of sexual harassment the first week on the job would not be the best move, or so my little 18-year-old mind thought. But, one thing I quickly learned was that if you let someone get away with something one time, they will do it again.
Let’s take it back to the start of my journey. The first day I started, my sister and I carpooled. On the ride there, she warned me about who to avoid and what the culture was like within the office that I would soon call my home. That’s when she began talking to me about my boss, let’s call him Ross. Ross apparently had a small track record of making people feel… Uncomfortable, worse than Michael Scott type of uncomfortable.
I had no idea how that track record would quickly begin to impact me.
His creepy banter started gradually before developing into full-blown pervert status. He’d randomly tell me things like the type of underwear he was wearing or how his boxers matched the color of his socks. I wish I would’ve replied like, “Um, I’m just tracking the company’s freight, I don’t think it’s in my job description to be aware of your undergarments, thank you.” Unfortunately, I didn’t have the audacity then that I do now. But I’m sure this specific experience proved to embolden me.
While the panty proclamations were weird enough, his creepiness only grew. At this time in my life, I was ironically also rushing for my sorority. Apparently, all Ross knew about Greek Life was what he saw on American movies as a kid growing up in England. As a result, he felt like he had the right to classify me as a sorority girl (whatever that means) and ask me about party life at Charlotte and if I liked to party with frat guys. Not only did he ask me about partying, but he also creepishly looked through all my pictures on Facebook (this is when I decided a private Facebook was a good thing). I came in one day to his office and he was looking at a picture I had posted. He began to comment on the shorts I was wearing and how much he liked them. Ew.
But while his Facebook comments started out in the office, they crept into his home as he would comment from afar on my activity and shares. Then one day, he decided to move my desk into his office. There really was never any explanation provided as to why, but out of the four other women who worked with me, I had the privilege of being even closer to this weirdo that I wanted to get away from.
The inappropriate comments and topics of conversations grew. He told me about his Spiderman Halloween costume that properly outlined his junk. And while I was drinking a soda, he made a perverted comment about “liking to swallow.” I genuinely did not know how to handle this type of language, but I knew that it made me feel uncomfortable and shouldn’t be happening at my place of employment.
Even though I knew something was wrong with what was happening, I don’t know if I would have ever said anything. Thankfully, though, I didn’t have to. One day, I was bombarded by HR in the bathroom after people started noticing how I became the target of his tasteless talk. She very tactfully began to ask me about what was happening, and her acknowledgement of the wrongdoing was like a breech in the dam of my silence. I began to flood her with the stories I had accumulated from my few months at the office.
She validated me and reassured me that everything would be handled.
Before anything happened to Ross though, I ended up quitting. The experience I had with him made me absolutely hate my job. I felt like I had to be hyperaware of the clothes I wore to work because if my pants were ever too fitted, I knew something would be said. I had to make sure I didn’t eat suggestively or say anything that could be turned into a perverted remark. I found myself having to be the one taking precautionary steps and changing my personal expression to accommodate for him. But that is not how it should be. I shouldn’t feel guilty and dirty for someone else’s actions. But I did.
Maybe he didn’t realize his comments were inappropriate, but I do not follow the “locker room talk” movement where this type of language is accepted. Intentions are irrelevant when someone feels marginalized, and the blame should never be placed on the victim. While I didn’t realize exactly all of these truths while it was happening to me, I see this now in neon brights.
I am lucky, though. My experience with sexual harassment was very brief and resolved. Some people are tormented with this type of abuse daily and have been for years. But silence is never the answer. My silence was luckily heard from the very observant HR team in the office, but many people will go unnoticed as victims of sexual harassment. I hope that if you are being sexually harassed, you will be inspired to go to someone for help.
And if you are the asshole who sexually harasses people, then I hope you will be inspired to go to hell.