OPINION: I’m just here to work: sexual harassment in workplace

By Adrienne Kennedy, Contributor

“You shouldn’t have given him your number in the first place.” These are the few words my manager told me when I was sexually harassed by a coworker at my workplace, a place I should feel secure and comfortable in. These sole words spoken by my manager resonate in my mind every time I think about the horrifying words my coworker said about me. The conversation between my manager and myself turned on me in a matters of seconds, making me the one at fault.
The background story is pretty simple. I met a boy at my overnight retail job who was quick to make unwanted advances. When he asked for my number, I refused immediately, telling him I had a boyfriend and had zero interest in him. He awkwardly responded, “Well…I just need friends.” This simple line ended up putting me in the worst situation I’ve ever been in at work.
After feeling badly for the boy who said he needed friends, I gave in and allowed him to have my phone number. After this, I received text after text and phone call after phone call from him for the next few weeks before the situation escalated.
My other coworkers began confiding statements to me of what they had heard the boy say about me. Or rather, what he wanted to do to me. This is when I finally went to my manager, to no avail.
“You shouldn’t have given him your number in the first place,” my manager told me. Confused, I sat there wondering why I was suddenly at fault and not the victim of sexual harassment anymore. I was scared to walk to my car during the night or go on my lunch break. I constantly feared seeing him at work. I was always hearing about new ways he would talk about me to other people.
But I was to blame.
This is just another case of sexual harassment in everyday life. I never would have expected this to happen to someone like me. But what I would expect even less is the sexist remark made by my seemingly kind, helpful manager. In his eyes, I was to blame for being harassed. Maybe it was my makeup, maybe it was my body, or maybe it was my sympathetic demeanor I can’t ever shake. He wouldn’t talk to the boy, but instead he told me to keep my phone number to myself.
The harassment continued, and I left my job the next week.
Today I have a new job with coworkers who support me and believe in me. I learned a great deal from this experience and am done with feeling uncomfortable, scared, and disrespected in my workplace.
I am a woman, and I am an asset to any workplace.
Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, James Toback, Ben Affleck, Chris Savino. Recognize any of these names? They all have one thing in common: they are all “role models” in today’s society that have been accused of sexual harassment, some of whom even admitted to it. Sexual harassment is a serious issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and these men are all examples of it. Their remarks and actions endanger all women and will always remain in the minds of the ones they attacked.
Today’s society struggles with the concept of sexual harassment. People have a tendency to blame the victim, and then when they finally come out, they are asked questions such as “Why did you wait so long?” or “Why didn’t you just leave him?” or “Why didn’t you consult someone higher up at your job?”
These are not the questions we need to be asking. We need to ask questions such as “Who could do such a thing?” and “How could they have thought that this was okay?”
Sexism is prevalent every day of our lives. I’ve experienced it and I’m sure you know someone who has experienced it too. Women shouldn’t feel forced to hide harassment they face, but rather they should feel as if they can come forward for help.
Sexual harassment is no joke, and I hope that one day it can cease to exist.

Graphic by Billy Ferguson