11 Years ago

11-years-ago11 Years ago, I accepted my first professional job offer.

Looking back, all the signs were there from the moment I accepted the interview. I saw the job posting at 7am, hit send on my resume, and within 3 minutes, I had a call asking me to come in that morning for an interview “Wow! That was quick!” I thought. “They must be really impressed with my resume…”

The posting was for a Marketing Manager. A position for which I, a recent Graphic Design graduate, was far from qualified for.  I had very low expectations, as I assumed they’d have many much more qualified and experienced applicants, but I knew the interview process would be good practice for those I’d get in the future, and there was a part of me that thought “Maybe this is it!”

As I approached the door of the building, a twenty-something, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, woman was walking out. Crying, with a box of items.  I’d later come to learn that she had just been fired from the position I was interviewing for.

I walked in, and met the CEO. There were no questions about my qualifications, why I wanted the job, where I saw myself in the future, what I could bring to the company…He immediately took me on a tour of the factory and introduced me to everyone. I had the job.

I was excited and a bit confused, as the interviews for my retail jobs and college internship were much more thorough. But, it was a paycheck, and benefits, and I had an office and a grown-up title! This was what I’d dreamed of!

Except it turned into a nightmare.

I learned quickly that the CEO was a less than decent human being. Our freelancers (a designer and a copywriter) both women, were treated with disrespect, and the other women in the office warned me to “be careful”   I was a tough girl, never considered myself a victim in any way, and felt that I could take care of myself.

It started with lunch meetings. Most days of the week, the CEO would come to my office, interrupting my work or a phone call or a meeting,  and say “Come on, we’re going to lunch!” These meetings didn’t include any conversations about work. They were personal. He made them feel like dates. He’d ask personal questions about my life and relationships. He’d tell me about how much money he had, vacations he took, women he seduced.  He’d have a drink, he’d tell me to have a drink. I was new to this world, and while it didn’t really feel professional, I thought “maybe this is just the way it is?” and he was my boss, and I needed this job. I put up with these uncomfortable lunches, and then just went back to work, and did my job.

Then it got worse.

While driving home one day I noticed his car behind me. He was following me. This was especially strange since we lived in different states, in different directions from the office. It was the first time, but wouldn’t be the last. On many more occasions, he followed me as I drove home.  It was scary and felt threatening to me because the route I took home was through the mountains, and woods, with little traffic, few houses, and no cell service. There were days where I wouldn’t pass another car for most of the drive. I started taking different routes to avoid him…he’d be there. He was following me.

I never said anything to him about it, and he never said anything to me.

The he started showing up at events, not related to work in any way, where I was.  I attended the Senior Open Portfolio Night at my Alma Mater. A few minutes in, one of my former professors came over and asked “Do you know that man?  He says he’s here with you?”  I turned to see who she was talking about, and there he was, the CEO.  I hadn’t told him about the event, and so I asked him how he knew about it.  He claimed my professor had invited him. I asked her, and she said that she had not. It wouldn’t make sense for him to be there as he had no connection to the school, especially the design department. We weren’t looking for an intern or a designer. The only reason he had to be there was me.

He had, I suspect, been reading my e-mails. He knew where I’d be and when, because he was reading my e-mails (which he apparently had access to, through our server)

He followed me around, from table to table, while I tried to talk to the students and view their work. He was incredibly rude, laughing at some work, and telling the artists to “Come on, come on, flip through this faster” snapping his fingers, and sighing loudly if someone wasn’t going fast enough for him. He asked me to go to dinner with him, he knew a great burger place, “Let’s get out of here!”

I had dinner plans with a few friends, and we tried to duck out and escape. But he caught us outside. He pulled his car up, rolled the window down, and told me to “get in!” to go to dinner with him.  He was not happy when I told him no, that I had plans, and would not be breaking them.

The following Monday, I came in to find a woman in my office. She was CEOs new “Personal assistant”  He’d met her that weekend, at a bar, and hired her. Blonde hair. Blue eyes.

He gave her my office, including my computer.

I was moved into an old storage closet, that was converted into an office space, and given an old barely functioning computer.  Once that didn’t have any of the programs I used on a daily basis. I couldn’t do my work. I didn’t have access to our accounts. I didn’t have access to my contacts.

I was yelled at daily for not getting things done, not being a “problem solver” as I should have found a way to design our ads WITHOUT design programs, or the required photo files.

I was being set up to fail because I didn’t give in to the CEOs advances.  I’d worked there too long without giving him what he wanted. Some kind of sexual relationship.

Not long after, I was fired. The meeting included the CFO, another man of very questionable character, and the CEO. They made me sit in a low desk chair, while they stood over me. The spent meeting telling me that I was terrible at my job, they were incredibly disappointed in me, I was lazy, I would never get another job, not to use them as a reference as they’d be VERY honest about my shortcomings, etc. etc. etc.

Just like the girl I replaced, I walked out into the sun, with a box of my belongings… (a box that was checked to make sure I wasn’t stealing anything)  I was just another blonde-haired, blue-eyed, twenty-something in a revolving door of blonde-haired, blue-eyed, twenty-somethings who fell victim to this egomaniacal predator.

So, why am I sharing this story now? 11 years later?  Because I’m seeing people comment that things that a person said or did over a decade ago, shouldn’t matter today.  That people can change, and confessing to sexually assaulting women 11 years ago shouldn’t have an impact on a person becoming President today.

WHAT!  Are you all serious?

Women like me, who have been victimized by men like Trump and my old CEO don’t get to just forget and move on from these things. We can’t just “get over it”  And we can’t teach our daughters that this is ok. We can’t teach our sons that sexual assault is something to be joked about in the locker room, that if you are rich and famous you have some sort of RIGHT to assault women.

I share my story (one of my stories–as there are others that maybe I will share another time)  because I think sometimes people forget that there is a real person on the other side of the sound bite. I share my story because this isn’t a thing of the past. This is happening now. Women are treated this way every day. And we keep letting it happen. Men abuse their power, women often feel afraid to do anything, and even when they do, they are victim shamed or doubted, the man gets away with it, and it continues. I do not want my daughter to grow up in a world where this is just accepted as “the way it is!”  or “Boys will be boys!”

What Trump said and said he DID, what people are defending him for, cannot just be forgotten and swept under the rug.  We can’t say “whats in the past is in the past! People change!”  This isn’t a recording of him saying “I really like the color blue” and now, 11 years later, changing his mind and saying “I know I said that, and I’m sorry, I’ve changed. I like red now!” his was a confession, with laughter, that he assaults woman. That, because of his status, and even as a married man, he can just go up and touch, grab, kiss women. Married women.  You can’t just say “Oh I know I used to sexually assault women, and feel that they were just a piece of a$$ free for my taking….but that was years ago!! I was an immature, 59 year old kid,   I don’t do that anymore!”  We can’t allow our children to see that we APPROVE of that kind of behavior.

He didn’t just say something dumb, he said he did something illegal. Something vile. Something that would cause most men to say “I’d kill a guy if they ever touched my daughter…”  Yet, somehow, in our society where Rape Culture is the norm, we think it’s “just a joke” we forgive, we let it go, we vote for him for President.  And that is absolutely disgusting.

It’s not “locker room” talk, and no, most men do NOT speak that way. My husband doesn’t. My father doesn’t. My uncles don’t. My friends don’t. And women who say this is normal guy talk, I am deeply saddened that some of you live in a world where this IS the norm. If you grew up in a home where your father spoke this way, or if your husband speaks this way now,  I am sorry. You need to know this is NOT the norm, this is not ok!

Can we PLEASE stop teaching our children that this is ok?

I can do my part to prepare my daughter for the crap in this world that she faces because she’s a girl, but I’d appreciate some help. Can parents of boys start teaching their sons not to to be monsters?  If there is any positive about Trump, I think he serves as a perfect example of what men should NOT aspire to be.

11 years ago, and today.

3 comments

  1. Jen says:

    Oh my goodness, Sarah. I’m so sorry this happened to you. You’re so brave to come out and speak about it. It gives the whole horrible situation a face, since you went through something so very similar. Thank you.

  2. Alice Clover says:

    Hello Sarah

    This is such a touching story about workplace harassment. Men and women are harassed at the workplace every day. Sexual harassment is one of the most common forms of discrimination in the workplace. Too often, women are not valued for their education, experience and skills. Although it is obvious that employers cannot discriminate in the hiring, promotion and firing of employees based on gender, the nature of sexual harassment is that it can be difficult to describe and often can be difficult to prove. Courts have generally divided sexual harassment into two types: quid pro quo, where sexual favors are sought in exchange for job benefits, and hostile work environment where sexual conduct creates an offensive working environment.

    Sexual harassment is not just about men coming onto women in the workplace. Many times sexual harassment is about sexual animus–that is, hostility toward a gender. While some men might see women as an opportunity for sex in the workplace, others strongly object to the presence of women and are openly hostile towards them. This can be true in both blue collar and white collar jobs. So, sexual harassment can be based upon sex, and upon sexual animus. Either way, it is illegal!

    My best to you in your endeavors.
    Alice Clover recently posted…Health and beauty benefits of currantsMy Profile

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