In light of all the “me too” posts and the degree of women in my life who have been affected by sexual harassment and assault, I decided that I would share my story.
Well…one of them.
Originally I didn’t plan on saying anything. I guess in some ways I’ve been conditioned to keep this stuff to myself. But I realised that maybe my story would help someone else speak out or get help or even feel on some level that they aren’t alone.
Some won’t find my story important or impactful but it affected me and regardless of the magnitude, it still isn’t something that should have happened.
One of the most prominent memories I have of a me too moment happened 3 years ago. I was working an event with celebrity talent and one of the guests who I knew was troubled, decided I was his new best friend. Little did I know that that meant he would not only unload his issues of addiction and relationship drama on to me, it meant I would be a victim of his behavior when dealing with his issues.
It all started out seemingly innocent. He would vent to me, tell me his troubles, overshare about his demons and then it would start all over again in a vicious cycle. It wasn’t the first time a guest had opened up to me and told me things I shouldn’t know, it comes with the territory, so I listened and leant an ear when needed.
But on the last night of the first weekend of the event, I found myself trapped by him in a room full of people. The fact that he could behave the way he did in front of so many spoke volumes and also shows how rampant and unapologetic some are when it comes to this kind of behavior.
I was sitting in my seat which was against a short wall at the hotel bar with friends and that’s when he came over and boxed me in.
He sat in front of me, legs on either side of my seat so I had nowhere to go.
He leaned over, took my drink out of my hands and started drinking it.
I wasn’t sure what to think at first as he had behaved somewhat erratically over the weekend.
I didn’t think much until he said “We’re going to play that game.”
He had mentioned earlier in the night he wanted to play a game where I had to agree to everything he said and I wasn’t allowed to speak or object but just do whatever he suggested. I brushed it off at the time and told him no because I wasn’t agreeing to anything and I walked away and went to join my friends.
So here he was, blocking my way out, leaning over me and alarm bells began to ring in my head.
I started to speak and he raised his hand and went “Ah ah ahh! No talking. If you do, I’ll go tell **** you want to fuck him.”
The colour drained from my face because in that moment all I wanted was for him to leave me alone but it was clear he was adamant to play his game and I didn’t want him telling anyone that I wanted to do anything to them.
I had my phone in my hand and when he noticed, he tried to pry it from me saying “You can’t call anyone for help”.
Luckily I managed to sit on my phone and all but shout at him that I wasn’t going to touch it so could he stop.
He then started badgering me, asking me if I’d speak and then would berate me with threats if I tried to answer because remember! No talking!
He was asking if I was ready to do anything and if any of my friends who at this stage realised something was very wrong, tried to interject, he made it clear they couldn’t help me.
It wasn’t part of “the game”.
This went on for what felt like forever and all the while he kept taunting me with things I don’t want to repeat and saying that he would go tell this other person that I wanted to do all sorts of things to him and the threats felt like they kept coming.
Luckily he was distracted long enough for me to get my phone out from under me to text someone who I knew could help and they came over. What I didn’t bargain for was him turning to me once they interjected, looking at me dead on and saying “Well you know what happens now.” And he disappeared in the direction of the person he threatened to tell all those things to.
My friends then kept apologizing to me saying they didn’t know what to do, they knew he was harassing me but they just didn’t know how to handle the situation.
During this exchange with them and my internal panic at what he was potentially doing and saying, I felt someone grab me around the shoulders and front of my chest from behind over the short wall I was sitting in front of. I didn’t know what to think at this point as I was being pulled back towards them so I stiffened up as I couldn’t see who grabbed me.
That’s when he whispered in my ear “I’d never let him do anything to you. I’d never let anything happen to you. I promise. It was just a game.” I felt sick.
How could someone get their kicks from basically tormenting someone like that and then feeling it was justified because they were just “playing”.
At the time I smiled and nodded and tried to laugh it off because he was so unpredictable I didn’t want to risk a repeat of it all. I gathered my stuff and headed straight to my room, closing the lift doors in his face when he tried to follow me.
The next weekend at the next event on the first night, he stormed through a room full of people who were attending to meet him and the other guests and got right in my face saying “We need to talk.”
I don’t know if it was the anger that had built up inside me or that I recognized he was so damaged that his threats didn’t scare me anymore, so I said fine.
He demanded we speak in private.
My friend who intervened the week before heard this and instantly shot me a look to see if I was okay and I nodded because this time I felt in control.
We walked out of the room to where nobody was and that’s when he unloaded a torrent of complaints at me.
“The way you treated me last week! The way you shut those elevator doors in my face! You treated me like I was just some guy who wanted to fuck you. Like I was some asshole. Well maybe I will. Maybe I will fuck you. Yup this weekend. I’m going to.”
I don’t know what possessed me, maybe it was stupid of me, but I burst out laughing at him because who was he to decide that he would just have at me. And the way he was spinning the story to paint himself as the victim the week before was beyond comical.
There was sheer shock on his face as I kept laughing at him and I don’t think he expected that reaction but by this stage I’d had enough.
I looked at him and bluntly said “Are you done? Do you feel better?”
He just stared at me blankly.
I then said “How about you get back inside and do your job, now that you’ve got that off your chest.”
I turned and walked away from him and he quietly followed and went back to mingling through the room.
Granted the drama didn’t end there. There was a lot that went on around him and because of him over the course of the event and to this day my memories are far from fond and I never want to be made to feel like I did that night when he played his game.
And even though he didn’t touch me or force himself onto me, being made to feel like I couldn’t escape and having words said to me that made me feel frightened and helpless was enough.
Because that’s just it.
Sometimes sexual harassment and abuse comes in the form of words.
It isn’t always physical.
But either way it’s lasting.
It all leaves a mark.
And too many women in my life have battle scars.