York Daily Record
October 24, 2017
by Kelly Jackson
Me too. Two tiny words, five simple letters; they say so little, yet mean so much. As a woman who endured multiple occurrences of sexual assault, I was a perfect target when my sexual harassment took place. I had been conditioned in my silence and shame; I was timid and afraid.
I was 20 years old, living on my own for the first time. With bills I could barely pay, I needed my job. I remember sneaking off during a work Christmas party, pleading with a friend over the phone to drop what they were doing and pick me up. The person who typically drove me home was my boss, and the owner of the company I was employed with; he was also the person I was trying to escape from.
I did not have a name for what had occurred that night, I only knew it made me extremely uncomfortable, it was inappropriate, and I needed to get out of there immediately. This man was old enough to be my father; he would continue his unwanted advances and manipulations until he fired me seven months later.
I moved on with my life. I found a better job and was happy to be away from his perverted grasp. Other than calling my friend that night, it would be years before I realized or spoke of what happened. This summer, as my 15-year-old daughter began putting in job applications, I relayed to her my cautionary tale. I warned her of things to be concerned about. I told her to never be silent, accepting or overlook unwanted advances. I told her I would always listen, I would always support her, and I would always believe her.
Some of the places my daughter considered applying to made me wary. I realized, though I have found my voice and am no longer afraid to use it, in my mind sexual harassment is what I have come to expect in our society. I want different for her. Even in small town U.S.A., I wonder if that is possible.
As I reflect on the barbaric, perverted stories being retold the past two weeks, the words which continue running through my mind are: complicit and complacent. There is no escaping the barrage of news, concerning the latest Hollywood scandal; each new encounter released, is more harrowing than the last. My stomach turns as I scroll past the overwhelming updates, while my body fills with a familiar sense of dread and disdain.
Time has facilitated healing, yet the events of the past week have left me emotionally triggered and exhausted. On a level no one ever dreams themselves being on, I associate with these women who have chosen to come forward and the ones who still cannot. I understand their anguish, their fear and their shame. I understand why there are many women who will suffer in silence and will never find their voice. Many women will never be capable of speaking about something so unspeakable. Many women will bear the scars from this man for years to come.
In 1991, our nation was enthralled as a judiciary committee, composed of only men, spent days on Capitol Hill inquiring about sexual harassment. As the committee conducted its investigation, they made no qualms about shaming and blaming Professor Anita Hill for the degrading, debilitating sexual harassment she endured. In the end, it did not matter; Clarence Thomas’s nomination was approved, and Professor Hill was left to pick up the pieces of her life. The player may be different, but the game has not changed; this is the same revolting pig we have seen many times before, except he is wearing different lipstick and designer sunglasses.
One of many tragedies surrounding this situation is that this is 2017, yet this archaic behavior still not only exists, it is tolerated. Tolerated by a society that believes this is acceptable, leaving victims to believe they have no recourse. While the spotlight is on Hollywood for the moment, this behavior is still happening across our country in big cities and small towns alike. I am certain if one were to conduct a thorough history on sexual harassment in the workplace, they would find it could be traced back to when women were first allowed to enter the offices and factories. For centuries, women have been objectified and sexualized, a chauvinistic male driven society has been complacent and complicit. Women are still considered the “weaker” sex. In many instances, they have no choice but to be silent or tolerable, if they desire to be employed or succeed in a man’s world.
I was raised in an era in which I repeatedly heard the phrase, “We cannot get involved in this situation, it is a private matter.” Afterwards, those same individuals would turn a blind eye, to appease their own conscience; it was complacency out of convenience. None of their excuses held water then, nor do they now.
Decades later, those same individuals would be mandated reporters, required by law to report any form of assault. We have made progress; sadly though, not enough. There are many individuals who are required to report abuse: from educators, doctors, nurses, social workers, to first-responders, police and clergy. Shouldn’t we all be mandated reporters? We have all seen where generations of the: it is not my problem, this is a private matter mentality have led us.
Need examples? The abuse at the hands of the Catholic Church, Jerry Sandusky and Penn State. Too many lives destroyed at the hands of abusive predators, enabled by a complicit society. There is much truth in the adages: there is strength in numbers and there is safety in numbers. The pathetic fact that it took the strength and safety of many to bring the reprehensible actions of this sexual predator to light is inexcusable. Victims should not live in fear of retribution because they seek justice; the truth must be heard and believed. It should make no difference whether it is one victim or a thousand victims coming forward.
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