In the wake of Harvey Weinstein and now Matt Lauer, millions of women, around the world, have declared #metoo, as they share countless sexual harassment experiences. We are truly in a sad state of affairs, when a hashtag needs to be created, in order for us women to have our voice heard. And just like you, I too, have experienced sexual harassment throughout various phases of my life.
As a kid, at the age of 5, I did have someone touch me inappropriately. It was a friend of the family. One morning, while I was waiting for the bus, I went over to my grandmother’s house to use the restroom. I knocked on the door, and this gentleman was there, who I was familiar with. I went in, when I was finished using the restroom, I needed to look out of the window to see if the bus had arrived.
So this man lifted me up, and when he did he pushed his entire body against mine, privates and all. I felt things happening that shouldn’t have been happening. I knew in that moment that it was totally appropriate. I demanded that he put me down, and I ended up walking the excruciating 30 minute long walk to school. That evening, I ended up telling my parents what happened. The result? My dad beat the living crap out the guy, and he was never heard from again.
I wish that I could say after this incident occurred, that this was the end of it. I was sexually harassed as recently as a few weeks ago. It can be completely exhausting being a woman. Ladies, it seems like this vicious cycle is never ending! Basically a coworker of my mine decided to brush up against me, very similar to the man who had did this to me as a child. I let it slide initially, but eventually, it became more and more frequent. And of course, with each time that it happened, it was another painful reminder of what happened to me as a child.
My initial thought process?
I would muster up all of the bass in my voice I could and state, “if you touch me again, I am going to knock the hell up out of you!” I’ve personally never been afraid of confrontation.
In fact, I had to confront another coworker, at a previous job, for the same thing. In this instance it was a female (Do not get it twisted, women can be just as vile). This female was constantly hitting on me, slapping me on my backside, and invading my space. So I put the bass in my voice, and stated, “leave me alone, or there WILL be problems.” I even went to HR and to my dismay nothing was done. To say I was disgusted was an understatement.
This time, however, with the male coworker, I chose to handle things a bit differently.
Trust me, this is not another rabbit hole I wanted to go down again. I still cringe whenever anyone grazes my backside. But needless to say, this situation deserved immediate attention. And if my 5 year old self could be brave and muster up the courage to take action (i.e. tell my parents what happened), certainly the adult in me can too. I choose to honor my feminine energy, respect my voice, and take proactive, intelligent steps towards handling the situation. Besides, I’m too cute and too grown to be beating someone’s ass at work.
Anyhow, I made a specific decision to reclaim my power. Here’s what I did to take defend myself and you can too!
STEP 1: DOCUMENTATION
The minute you feel that someone is sexually harassing you or you are receiving unwanted sexual advances, you document. I keep a tablet and cell phone with me at all times. My tablet is where I document dates and times. I then take that information, and I go to my computer or phone, and list detailed information about what happened with dates and times. I will email that information to myself, wherever I am at the time. It’s very easy to forget details, when you don’t write things down in the moment. In addition to writing down your incidents, I HIGHLY recommend recording them. It’s pretty impossible for someone to deny that something is happening when it’s recorded and played back to them. Remember, if you don’t document, it will always be “He Said, She Said”.
STEP 2: KNOW YOUR WORK POLICIES
Understanding your work policies can help you, especially if you’re dealing with sexual harassment with someone who is in a higher position than you. When my supervisor was harassing me, she was in cahoots with everyone, including HR. I thought, there’s no one I can trust or turn too. I vigorously studied our work policies and found out that there was an Ombudsman’s Office. They’re an unbiased entity, who will get to the bottom of anything happening in the work place. So I encourage you all to study your work manuals, and find out if something similar like this exists.
STEP 3: NOTIFY THE HIGHER UPS
Oftentimes, men see this as no big deal, or they may just have an obsession with power. So they continue to abuse that. It’s crucial for us, as women, to share information and voice what is happening. You MUST speak to HR, your supervisor, manager, etc. Now I know, it’s easier said than done. Some of you may be scared. And while I can’t really relate to this, I DO have the solution to move past it. The next step I’m going to share will totally protect you. So push past the fear, and report them.
STEP 4: CONTACT EEOC
Let’s say your boss is the one harassing you. They claim it’s just “locker room talk.” And the “Job Jocks” (a term I coined for disrespectful male colleagues) decide they want terminate you. Then you need to contact the EEOC immediately. The EEOC stands for Equal Employer Opportunity Commission. They will step in, on your behalf, and fight for you. As long as you have your documentation, the EEOC will handle any sexual harassment case, whether you got the job, were fired, or are still currently working in your position. Having a powerful force like this behind you is critical, and I guarantee you, you will get results.
STEP 5: LET YOUR VOICE BE YOUR POWER
If you’ve ever felt powerless…STOP. Today is the day that you are going to reframe your thinking. You deserve to feel in control of your mind, body and spirit. I don’t care who the person is, my mom, my husband, friend or employer – I will never let another human manipulate me or sway my thinking. Do not let negative thoughts get in control of your behavior. As long as you are telling other people, I believe you will be supported by your friends, community, the universe, God, or whatever it is you believe in. You never have to lay on your back, to get a step up or ahead in life. It will never bring you happiness or success. TRUST. Eliminate that thinking TODAY.
Look, sexual harassment sucks. But, women, we have got to learn how to reclaim our power! YOU are not a victim. YOU have a voice. I truly believe that the only way to create change is through documentation and communication. I’ve shared 5 solutions that can help you deal with sexual harassment at work. But I know that there are many more. What has been your experience with sexual harassment, and how did you solve it? Share your solutions on Social Media Platforms with #myvoiceismypower. I want to read your responses and make this a movement of solutions not sorrow.
It’s time to reclaim our voice!