So, Ke$ha’s legal debacle. If you don’t even know who Ke$ha is, don’t be too hard on yourself. I didn’t really know much of her either until the recent media hype. I knew she sang horrible songs, mostly about getting drunk, that became party anthems worldwide, but I’ve never been a fan of hers. The fact that I’m even using a dollar symbol in her name makes me cringe.
Yet, I share a deep bond with her. Her story of sexual harassment/assault from her professional superior is something I am familiar with and I’m here to tell my story, not only in solidarity with her but of the millions of others that have experienced this in their workplace. I’ve been working on writing this for years and Kesha gave me more of a platform to do so. Her situation isn’t unique and I’m so angry about it.
I’ve been in medical supply sales for almost 12 years. I sell devices to orthopedic surgeons. It’s a male dominated field and it’s always been intimating for that reason.I’ve worked so hard to prove my worth in many professional situations. I’ve had physicians say the most inappropriate things to me, hit on me, suggest infidelity, the list goes on. I had one surgeon actually tell me that he masturbated to me. That is a true story. These situations mostly occurred in my first couple of years on the job and I assumed this was part of the deal. If I wanted to make a sale and keep the customer, it was part of the territory. It was a sick, twisted way of thinking but this was a career I wanted so desperately. I wasn’t proud of accepting this behavior but I was exceptional at rationalizing it.
A few years ago, I was a mid-level management employee of a company. My boss, to whom I directly reported, was an attractive guy with a cocky sense about him but likable and charismatic all the same. He was the national sales manager, the highest level management under the president, and someone who I had to spend a lot of time with when he traveled here and even more time on the phone with daily.
The first year remained professional enough between us. My boss and I had our disagreements and I did noticed his lack of decorum in certain situations. I noted his need for control and that he didn’t like to be second guessed. All points taken. He was my boss. I was just so proud to hold this management position that I was willing to endure a lot of questionable comments and conversations. As a female in my industry, or most industries, if you question or complain about almost anything, you’re viewed as the bitch and a trouble maker. So I trudged on.
Heading into my second year, this boss of mine contrived an entire business trip to sexually harass/assault me. After dinner one evening on said trip, in a city full of lights, bars, and drinking, he pulled me into an unmarked store, which happened to be a store full of porn and sex toys. He forcefully dragged me by my arm into the back of the store where they had private porn-viewing rooms, about the size of a dressing room at a retail store, and held me there against my will while I struggled and attempted to get away for approximately 2 minutes. It seemed like an hour, as he was holding me down with one arm and trying to find appropriate pornographic viewing material with his other.
I escaped quick enough from the situation but the next few days, weeks, months, and even years, I would struggle with a ton of fall-out.
It took me weeks to come forward to our company’s legal counsel, who happened to be a female that I trusted. “This was my boss. I had to have done something wrong to cause this. I had to have led him to this situation”, is what I told myself, amongst other things, but I logically knew that I could not see this man again face to face. I was physically ill over the entire situation, playing that evening in my head over and over. I knew I would potentially be helping other females if I spoke up, so I eventually came forward.
Our company clearly did not have appropriate protocol for these situations. I was required to fly out to our headquarters and verbally explain detail by detail what happened to legal counsel, and the president of the company, over breakfast. I had to tell this man, the president of our company, who was a personal friend of my boss, exactly what happened verbatim. This in it of itself was abusive.
That same evening that I flew to headquarters to have this conversation, I received a call that my boss resigned. He was not fired. He was given the option to resign. I later found out that several other women came forward with similar stories and despite that fact, he was allowed to simply resign.
And. It gets worse.
He was then given another position within the company as a contracted employee a few months later. That’s right. After 4 or 5 women came forward with their stories of sexual harassment and/or assault, he was welcomed back into our company’s DNA.
When I heard he was working for our company again, I was livid. I reached back out to legal counsel and at that point was then asked to speak to the CEO and tell him my story over the phone. Yet another man, who I barely knew, had to hear gory details of this disgusting, sexually explicit event. His response? “Everyone deserves a second chance”.
So there it is. A victory for the abuser and a “shut the fuck up” for the victims.
I share this because here’s the issue: like Kesha and many other women that go through this experience, we are automatically speculated upon when we make these accusations. We are either deemed as liars or viewed as women who encourage these sexual advances, we “ask for it”. We are trouble makers, we are whores, we are wanting notoriety. Kesha’s court ruling proves that point. Sony will not let this woman out of her contract after making these accusations of sexual abuse which tells me that the court doesn’t believe her.
Can’t we, once, as a society stop blaming the victim and realize that men in power sometimes use their power for evil? Can’t we speculate on these men that commit this crimes? Can’t we speculate that these stories might actually be true and give the victim the benefit of the doubt? Because the fact of the matter is, no one knows what truly happened to Kesha, or even to me that night in South Beach. It’s our words against these men that reign superior to us. But here’s a thought: we might be telling the truth, society, and you’re putting other women in harm’s way by assuming we aren’t. You are perpetuating the cycle of abuse by assuming we are a bunch of liars.
Could Kesha be lying? Of course. She could be to get out of her contract. Sure. But let’s assume for one second that she’s not. She is now working along side of her abuser, just like I had to, only her case is much more severe than mine. Can you just imagine what this would feel like? It’s like reliving a traumatic event every.single.day. When all that judge had to do, in Kesha’s case, is allow her out of her contract and go elsewhere to make music. Simple as that.
We have not come very far in this realm. Kesha’s situation, my situation, and many others, is a testament to that. Many women aren’t speaking out about this type of issue in the workplace because, really, what’s the point when the abuser has little to no consequence? It’s defeating. When all we want is a safe work place. It’s not too much to ask.
It’s going to require the men of our society to do some work on themselves before we can expect change. Stop assuming we are lying. Stop making us the troublemakers. Stop making us work in a hostile environment.
Solidarity, Kesha. Keep fighting the good fight for what’s right.