I knew last Monday was going to be a super long day. I had personal training at 8:30 am, the first of many in-office meetings at 10 am, tons of work to do all day, and then choir rehearsal from 7:30 to 10 pm. I had a rare commute to myself (usually I drop off one of my two girls) and I was taking the time to try to focus and rally myself. “You can do it!” I was saying to myself, probably listening to Lizzo.
I had transferred from the F to the A/C when a guy got on the train next to me. I was standing near the doors, and he got on next to me at the doors. He was yelling and obviously unhinged – ok fine. But he immediately turned toward me staring directly at me. I actually don’t remember what he was yelling but it involved accusations of me being a “bitch”, his desire to “rape” (me?), yelling about “fucking”, and grabbing his junk under his pants. He was about 2-3 feet away from me.
I froze in my spot. I did not move or blink, other than to close my eyes, and think calm thoughts until the next stop, planning to switch cars at the next stop. But High Street to Fulton is super long! It felt like forever. And when I moved to get off, he did the same. So then I stayed in place, which he did too. I finally darted off and ran into the other car. My heart was pounding while I waited to see if he was going to follow me into the car before the doors closed.
The worst part of this was that there were so many people on the train who could have helped me. There was a super tall guy, not even wearing headphones, standing nearby, who could have just moved to stand in between me and the perpetrator. I kept looking at that guy and waiting for him, or anybody, to do something. Nobody did.
Actually, that wasn’t the worst part. Here’s the worst part: there was a minute when I thought to myself, “I knew I should have waited until I got to the gym to change into my slutty gym clothes.”
When I got off the train I was shaking and had tears in my eyes. I pretty much recovered and had a good workout at the gym. But I was mad. I was mad at the guy who didn’t help, but I was also mad at myself for questioning what I was wearing. I decided not to change out of my gym clothes when I went to the office that day. Everybody thought I was crazy when I walked in, but when I explained, they got it immediately.
We represent a lot of clients who have faced sexual harassment. And all of us tend to say the same things to ourselves. Was it really so bad? Did I imagine it? Am I allowed to make a big deal out of this? And the dirty secret is that others have the same questions too. Because they don’t understand how POSITIVELY DERAILING and BELITTLING and HUMILIATING it is to be threatened and/or treated like an object. They don’t realize that this sort of thing can totally throw us off our game. I absolutely was less productive that day last week; I was less happy and less present. And I am telling you as an expert that getting sexually harassed on the train by a crazy person is not nearly as bad as somebody who is waiting for you at your place of business every single day. (Meanwhile, these same people who don’t get it will spend all day stewing about somebody who knocked into them on the street or cut in line or whatever. Guys: just imagine your whole day consists of people who are trying to get onto the subway before you get off. Or standing on the left side of the escalator, blocking you from walking by. Except they’re doing it on purpose because they are mean and they hate you.)
Anyway, I digress. The point is: being tough does not mean not asking for help. We hear clients all the time who were hesitant to reach out to us because they can’t decide if it’s “worth it”. When we say this to ourselves we are really questioning whether WE, as women, are “worth it.” Personally? I think we are.
- f you see a woman being harassed, FFS go and help. You are a jerk otherwise.
- If you, or anybody you know is being sexually harassed at work – or anywhere really – just call us. We’re here to help.
- While you’re here, you might as well share this with your friends, and get to know the firm by checking out our new introductory video.