The Blame Game. Who is NOT to blame?

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I was raped. I was young, scared, and ashamed. Later I would learn that I was also pregnant. The 9 months that followed my assault were the defining moments of my life. I hid my pregnancy from everyone, thanks to the baggy jeans and flannel shirt look of the early 90’s. The disappointment I would see in my father’s eyes was more than I could bear. How many times had he told me nothing good comes from being out past 10:00. My Mom would be so embarrassed. How could her little girl end up pregnant in High School? I couldn’t have been more wrong about my parents and their reactions, but my shame was already placed solely on my shoulders, with zero thought regarding the boy who had hurt me. He was free to live a normal life with no second thought to my pain. From me, or society.

In the last week since the #metoo campaign has emerged, I have seen so much bravery from girls and women just like me. It’s like looking across a crowded room and realizing that you are not the only one, in fact, almost everyone has a story. A time where a HS boyfriend got a little too aggressive, so you just gave in and cried on the inside until you were alone and sobbed into your pillow. The times at work when the guy from operations would come over and tell you all about the threesome he had with two sisters over the weekend. The hug from an Uncle that always was a little too tight and lasted a little too long. The Olympic Dr. that took advantage of countless young athletes reaching their ultimate goal, but not without a price. The time I had too much to drink celebrating a huge goal that I achieved at work, only to be followed into my hotel room by a much senior person in my company and only was able to get myself out of the situation was tears, begging and the threat of being physically sick from the alcohol I consumed.

Yesterday I read a comment from someone I looked up to, you could even say I admired her. She is successful, has strong family values and has always been very kind to me. Her comment stated she didn’t have a #metoo. She believed the reason why was the value that she added to the room in business, and we as women needed to be smart, responsible for ourselves, know the dangers and possibilities of what could happen and that we who did have a #metoo contributed VERY MUCH to the outcome we got. Yes, you read that last part correctly. I was dumbfounded. And pissed. I actually started to question myself. Do I NOT add enough value to the room, is that why some men find it ok to say the things or do the things they do. Am I not smart enough or responsible enough? FUCK THAT! And no I won’t apologize for my language. We as women apologize too much as it is. This is a classic case of victim blaming and it is not acceptable.

My parting words to the victim blamer were this. Not all men are bad, but some are. Not all women experience these situations, but most do. To suggest that adding value to a room, or being smart enough and responsible for ourselves can end bad behavior from others is not only naive but complicit.

The only person that should be blamed or ashamed in the case of sexual assault or harassment is the one committing the assault or harassment. Period.

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#MeToo

no-more

Well here we are, it’s 2017 and we are still (not) talking about sexual assault and harassment. We’ve all been to the work mandated meetings and completed the awkward trainings on the right and wrong way to address, or compliment (just don’t) people that we work with. Yet today, amidst all of the attention the subject is getting in the news and social media, the following two things happened to me at work.

  1. A colleague called me into his office to show me a new customer that we have that gave me a discount code that we could use as a new partner. Nice, you say. When he pulls up the site to ask me if there is anything I would like, it’s a page full of bralettes and panties. Number one, my boobs are way too big for a bralette, better known as a fake bra and number two, really??? Did he really think that pulling a female coworker into an office to offer her a discount on underwear was the best idea??? I digress….
  2. Next, another coworker who has made me uncomfortable on several occasions by calling me, baby, sweetheart, sister and other slang that are NOT my name, came up to me, put his arm around my shoulder a little too tightly to commiserate our mutual teams not doing well in the MLB postseason. (Get it together Cubbies!)

This is just a day in the life of corporate America. As I write this I wonder, do I give people the impression that this is okay by adhering to the just one of the guys persona that I have found necessary to fit in and be accepted into the boys club? Yes, that is me blaming myself for unwanted and uncomfortable situations, and frankly, THAT is unacceptable. Will I report either instance? Sadly no, and honestly these are mild compared to other things I have endured including a bad hotel situation where I was too drunk and I let a coworker take things too far. Again, I blamed myself for months.

When I was 15 I was raped by a boy I was dating. I didn’t understand how wrong that was until much later in life. He was used to having sex with his girlfriends, so he didn’t understand that no meant no. I feel like this is when I learned to lie to myself. In my 20’s there were two occasions that stand out. I was on a date and went back to someone’s apartment to hang out after dinner. A kiss turned into a very aggressive situation, and a very well timed roommate returning that allowed me to leave, but I’ve always known where that night was going.

I worry about my daughter. She too will have to face the same struggles, awkward hugs, unwanted touching, abusive language, boyfriends that don’t understand no, coworkers that don’t respect her if she doesn’t play along unless we as women make a real change. We must demand that this is not okay. I should not be fearful for my job that I rely on if I suggest that our work culture isn’t all rainbows and unicorns as advertised.

So yes, me too. I too must stop lying to myself and start thinking about what kind of American culture I want my daughter and your daughters to grow up in.