I was 19-years-old then, too young to have the wherewithal to stand up for myself against someone who took liberties over my body. It was a part-time job at a small sandwich shop. Our lunch rush required us to have the ability to make up to twelve sandwiches wrapped and ready to go in under five minutes within a team of three people. It was during this lunch rush that she groped my crotch as I was carrying a basket of bread over to a counter. The look of shock and disgust on my face did not faze her. I was speechless and completely caught off guard. She laughed it off and went back to work. This would be one of three instances in which she did this, and one of several in which she would humiliate me in front of others.
She was not a manager, but she had the benefit of having worked there longer than any other employee. She was bossy and demanding, and quite honestly, she was a monster.
The owners of the business liked her a lot since she seemed to get a lot done, and in hindsight, I should have spoken up. I also should have left.
Now, years later, I wonder why I’ve never spoken openly about this experience. It truly was humiliating and dehumanizing. At the time, I was embarrassed and ashamed and couldn’t get myself to talk about it to anyone.
I filed it away under memories that were isolated incidents that I would rather forget.
I never forgot. I never forgot how she made me feel.
Fast forward to the last couple of months when many courageous women are standing up for themselves and holding people accountable for their bad behavior. This took me back to my own experiences. All things being relative, what happened to me feels small compared to what others have gone through, and I am thankful that I have not been in a similar situation ever since.
I truly hope that this time of reckoning in our culture creates deep and substantive change in our society. I hope we can take this further and figure out ways to talk to our children about how to stand up to people who abuse their power by abusing others. Maybe it can be discussed in schools. I wish someone had taught me about how these dynamics play out. I did not have that awareness back then, but I do now.
I wish someone had told me that no one has a right to treat me and my body that way without my consent.
To some extent, even though it accounts for a short period of my life, I wonder how it affected me in the long-term. Anybody who knows me knows how extremely modest I am. Someone would have to pay me very well to take my shirt off in public. I often default to being passive when dealing with difficult people (I’m working on this one), and I avoid terrible people at all costs.
So, maybe there’s good and bad in the end.
If I ever see her again, I would tell her how she made me feel and that she had no right to treat me or anyone else that way. I would tell her to rot in hell, because I still feel a little angry about it all, as long as I’m being honest.
Whether it’s a film production company, NBC, CBS, a factory in the midwest, or a sandwich shop in the south, I hope women and all people can feel safer where they work.
We all deserve safety, respect, and to be treated with dignity.