#MeToo: My Sexual Harassment Story

Between Bill Cosby, Bill O'Reilly, Donald Trump, and Harvey Weinstein, sexual harassment has been a hot topic in both mainstream and online media - and rightfully so. It's something pretty much every woman experiences in some capacity, and its appalling how often it's swept aside as a non-issue. What's more dismaying is the way women (and men) feel the need to keep quiet about so many terrible situations ranging from catcalling to rape. I think, if you feel capable, it's important to share your story, so today I'm sharing mine.

I worked at the same restaurant from 17 to 22, and had a handful of sexual harassment issues from the start. One employee, the brother-in-law of the store manager, frequently commented on how good I'd look pregnant and played an annoying little game where he'd ask new employees to guess my bra size. Another employee used to stroke my hair and ask me to leave Dean for him. Once, at a Christmas party, another told me I had "the most exotic eyes" and took up a bet that he could eventually win my heart and stop me from moving to Australia (he didn't). There were endless rumors about me fucking multiple coworkers. But I'm not going into detail about any of them today. Today I'm talking about Sean.*

To understand the Sean ordeal, you need a little bit of backstory. When he was hired, Sean was 19 years old, tall, skinny, covered in cystic acne, and physically and socially awkward in a number of ways. He suffers from dyslexia and needed extra help learning his role in the restaurant, so I worked closely with him for two weeks, and we became friends during that time. As his trainer, I went out of my way to be nice to him when many other employees immediately rejected him on sight. I introduced him around to other friendly employees, and eventually he became well liked (though never particularly good at his job). Sean started to be included in social situations, including my girl squad's coffee seshes, and after work parties. We rarely hung out one on one, though we did spend an afternoon at the mall once - he'd invited me because he wanted opinions on some new shoes, and apparently in his mind, it was our 'first date'.

Our 'second date', from his point of view, was a viewing of Frozen at a coworkers house. Five of us gathered for pizza, a movie, and a game of Cards Against Humanity. Typical Friday stuff. Living nearby, Sean and I walked home together. He made an offhand comment about a kiss goodbye, but I thought it was a joke. He knew I was engaged to Dean, so why make a move?

Our so-called 'third date' was when things got seriously uncomfortable. A large group of our coworkers (and a few non-work friends, like my Aussie pal Taylor, who happened to be in town) went out for a birthday dinner. Three of us (myself included) were celebrating our birthday that week, and we went to a nice hibatchi restaurant - a rare treat for all of us underpaid cooks and servers. Sean offered to buy my dinner, which I assumed was a two-day-late birthday gift - not an agreement to sleep together. At the end of the meal, he asked me - IN FRONT OF EVERYONE - if we were going home together. I was so shocked and uncomfortable - of course I said no! He brought it up again, after we'd moved on to the ice cream parlour next door, insisting that I should come home with him because he paid for my dinner. A male coworker told him that he was being inappropriate and that buying dinner doesn't guarantee him sex. I spent the rest of my night hanging off Taylor in an attempt to deter Sean. The mood of the entire night was ruined for me, and I ended up going home early and straight to bed, after a distressed Skype call to Dean.

Two days later is when things took a turn for the worse. We were in the middle of an insane dinner rush, and I ended up working at a different station from my usual spot. Seemingly out of nowhere, Sean came up behind me, pushed me against the heated board and literally grabbed me by the pussy in full view of customers and a security camera. I whipped around, pushed him away, and shouted "keep your fucking hands off me". He reacted like I was playing with him - he laughed. My manager and former roommate shouted at me for swearing in front of customers and refused to hear my reasoning.

When the rush died down, one of my favorite coworkers, a massive guy that no one would fuck with, took Sean aside. He'd seen the whole thing and asked Sean for his perspective. Sean proceeded to tell a sob story about how I'd led him on, how we'd been on three dates, how we'd cuddled while watching Frozen (I genuinely wasn't aware that sitting on the same couch counted as cuddling????). I tried my best to carry on with my shift, but I desperately wanted to go home. The next five hours dragged. Though both Dean and my mum noticed I was upset, I didn't tell them anything. The whole thing was just so draining. I felt gross and tired, and I definitely didn't want to go to work the next day. A few hours later, Sean started texting me, asking why I got angry at him. He told me he was under the impression that we were much more than friends, and had a massive multi-text go at me about friend zoning him. The texts were disgusting and full of all the usual r/redpill bullshit. I didn't want to see them again and deleted them - which turned out to be a big mistake.

The following day, I approached a manager I trusted and told him about what happened. He showed a lot of concern over the situation - he took notes on my story, and called Sean off of his shift so we wouldn't have to work together.  That night, Sean showed up at my house after my shift, trying to ~talk things out~ and wouldn't leave til my dad threatened him. At that point I had to tell my mum and Dean what happened. Both of them were supportive and sympathetic, which I'm still very grateful for.

A few days later, I showed up at my next shift, and noticed two female managers were treating me quite differently - and not in a good way. I eventually found out that my situation was brought up at a manager meeting, and it was treated like a joke among the female managers. They pulled out all the classic victim blaming tactics - saying I flirted too much, wore too much makeup, and had inappropriately tight pants. As if I was living in some crazy backwards world, it was the male managers that were defending me while the women laughed it off. Conveniently, there was "no security footage" despite the incident occurring right in front of a camera. The manager on duty also "didn't see or hear anything". Testimonies from the employees that witnessed it weren't taken seriously because they "weren't from trustworthy people." Eventually, I was called into a meeting with the two female managers mentioned above. They chastised me for how I handled the situation and told me I was being immature. This is just "something that happens". They told me it wasn't worth investigating, and that if I filed an official report Sean would be immediately terminated - think about his future! Like I gave a fuck? I tried to file a report, but nothing came of it - it never got to the general manager, somehow.

Throughout all this bullshit, I tried to go through my shifts like nothing was happening. I was nervous to go to work everyday, unless I was working with my favorite coworkers - all of whom had become very protective of me. Sean, on the other hand, refused to listen to me - which was literally his job. I could request anything from another box of french fries to having the trash taken out, and he'd act like I wasn't speaking. Other people had to echo my requests to get him to even acknowledge them. Eventually he was taken off my shifts and put on to overnight - but only after harassing another girl, who happened to be underage.

I was never treated the same after my incident with Sean, at least not by management. The female managers became increasingly catty towards me. I was refused a promotion despite being the most qualified person for it, and eventually my pay was cut all the way back down to the starting rate because of my "bad attitude" and "bullying behavior" while Sean was given a raise. I worked precisely three more shifts before deciding that my new $7.25/hour rate wasn't worth it. I loved my job there, and I loved most of my coworkers - I'm still close friends with several of them three years later. But none of it was worth it anymore.

I'm not particularly traumatized by what Sean did. In the grand scheme of things it could've been so much worse. I am, however, still incredibly angry about the way it was swept under the rug by management. I'm still confused by the way the men at my restaurant stood up for me while the women victim blamed me. I deeply regret not pursuing justice and the treatment I deserved, but at the time I was too embarrassed and felt too small. I'm a couple years older and more confident now and I'm angry that some nineteen year old nerd stole so much of my quality of life that year. I don't think there's really any lessons that you can take away from my story - I didn't really stand up for myself, and I didn't get any sort of justice or revenge, but if you've had a similar experience and feel ashamed, remember that it happened to me too.

*Name not changed because I don't give a fuck if he's embarrassed.

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