In light of the recent #metoo movement, I wanted to share this story. It wasn’t until recently when I read an article on a specific form of sexual harassment, that I realised I had been a victim.
You might be wondering, how can I not have realised I was sexually harassed? Let me preface by saying this, I wasn’t raped. No one touched me without my consent. No one made inappropriate or sexually explicit comments to me that made me uncomfortable. It was nothing like that, and that is why I didn’t realise.
I’m a lawyer, so I have a decent idea of what’s legal and what’s not.
At the time, I was 24 and had gone out to a bar after work with some colleagues, a number of whom were older males and a certain few whom, up until that point in time, I trusted implicitly. I wasn’t drinking because I was driving – not that it matters, but my judgment was in no way impaired. When one of the men I trusted asked to borrow my phone, I didn’t think twice about giving it to him. Ten minutes later he returned it to me, thanked me and I left.
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The next day, the same man texted me photos of myself that I hadn’t given to him and that I certainly hadn’t intended anyone except maybe an intimate partner to see. Especially not 10 to 12 of my work colleagues, including my boss.
It took a minute for my brain to register how he had got the photos. When I realised what had happened, I was absolutely humiliated. Not only had a man I trusted stolen private photos off my phone and deleted any evidence of sending them to himself, but he had the gall to send the photos back to me and parade the fact that he had them.
The next day, I went into my bosses office and explained what had happened. I hadn’t been at the firm for long and I was humiliated that something like this had happened and that I was ‘causing drama’. So when my boss told me the man in question had passed the photos around a table at a business lunch my boss attended, that my boss had ‘handled it’ and that I didn’t need to take it any further, I left his office and did exactly what he said. What my boss also told me was that, this should be a valuable lesson not to keep private photos on my password protected phone if I didn’t want something like this to happen.
A few months later, my boss told me that I needed to ‘make up’ with the disgusting creton who had violated my trust, for ‘business purposes’. And so I did. What else was I going to do? Risk losing my job? As a 24-year-old, newly admitted lawyer, I already knew job prospects were slim for someone with my level of experience.
So I had lunch with a man who had humiliated me, violated my trust and gotten away with it. I pretended like nothing had happened because I had been made to feel like it was my fault for having those photos on my phone in the first place. He apologised and described it as a ‘stupid prank’ among boys.
I knew what had happened to me was wrong, but because of how I was made to feel by so many grown men whom I trusted, I didn’t believe that anyone would take me seriously if I tried to take it further. It wasn’t until recently when I read an article about a man who was arrested and charged with a jail sentence for doing the same thing, that I realised this is actually a form of sexual harassment. Not only was I taken advantage of, but I was also manipulated by people I thought I could trust.
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I like to think of myself as a strong, independent, well educated, feminist-inclined woman, who fights for women and their rights. More than anything else, I was shocked that I was sexually harassed without realising it and that I let the man who did it to me get away with it.
As women, need to share our stories and encourage other woman to identify what is happening to them and to have the courage to speak up.