I have a black bruise on my knee the size of a fist, and I’m angry. Really, really angry.
The reason for my ire is quite simple. Sexual harassment.
Yesterday I had to squeeze past a guy I know to reach for something. He was sitting in a swivel chair. When I turned back to go the way I had come, he had spun the chair sideways and I found myself stuck between his knees and a cabinet. I had to push past his knees to get out of my predicament. And to do that, his knees rubbed against my backside, which made me jump, and I slammed my knee into the handle of the cabinet. Hence the bruise.
Here’s the thing. He said not a word. Did I imagine it? Was I making too much of it? It felt awful, and inappropriate, and confusing, and not the least bit casual. He left shortly after that and I got to watch my bruise grow and change colors, and with it went my mood.
If I give him the benefit of a doubt, it was an unfortunate and humiliating coincidence which could have been handled much better, but he was probably too embarrassed to say anything, and I was taken by surprise.
It disgusts me to have to second guess myself like this.
But if it was what I think it was, a cheap way to cop a feel without having to take responsibility for it, then I am furious. And the worst part about it is that he’d have known darned well that I wouldn’t be able to be certain, so he basically gets an out of jail free card, so to speak.
And what do I get? The sick, creepy, slimy feeling of being taken advantage of, and the knowledge that I’ve got no recourse, because he knows me well enough to know that I wouldn’t want to go accusing him of anything so serious unless I was completely certain. I’m not going to threaten someone’s family life and livelihood without being positive. And I can’t be.
What leaves me fuming is that this isn’t the first time this has happened to me, and it probably won’t be the last. I’ve been groped on a subway, elbowed in elevators, and one time a doctor told me, in the midst of a breast exam, that I reminded him of his girlfriend from college. Shudder.
That last incident was blatant, but I was too young to know what to do. Nowadays I’d have had his medical license. The subway incident was in a foreign country, where women’s rights are fragile at best, in a car so crowded I couldn’t even turn around to identify the culprit. The elbow thing happens quite a bit, and it’s a grey area. Could be an accident, could be on purpose. It makes me avoid elevators whenever possible.
I’m not trying to say all men are dogs. Far from it. For every scummy groper, I can think of a hundred gentlemen. The thing is, the slimeballs are out there and no woman should have to put up with them. I don’t care what culture you’re in or how well you know the guy. It’s not acceptable.
I resent it that there are people in the world who think it’s okay, or funny, to touch me without my permission. I think some of them get a feeling of power from the act. They want you to get that gross, squicky feeling in the pit of your stomach. They want you to feel violated and confused and outraged. And it works.
You’d think I’d have grown past this treatment. I’m a fat middle-aged woman. But even if I were a young supermodel it wouldn’t be justified. I’m infuriated for all women, because it happens to us all.
And I’m disgusted that if we speak up, we’re cast in the light of being hysterical or paranoid or silly, or nothing changes.
In college I had a job working in the cafeteria. The 50 year old cook asked me out, and when I politely declined, he made my life a living hell until the day I threw an ice cream scoop at his head and walked out. When I reported the incident, I was then placed in a job in the secretary’s office, but the cook remained employed. I was treated to his scowls three meals a day.
On my first job after graduating, I offered to give my boss’ 70 year old friend a ride home. When we pulled up to his house, he put his hand on my upper thigh. I kicked him out of the car and drove away in tears of fury. When I told my boss, he thought it was funny, and his friendship with the man changed not one bit.
I am sick and tired of it all.
I’ve stewed over this situation long enough. I’ve decided what to do. I have to give him the benefit of the doubt this time, but if it happens again I’m going to file a report because it definitely won’t be a coincidence. If it happens while I still have this bruise, though, I’ll still be pretty angry and will be hard pressed not to “accidentally” knee or elbow him in the nearest sensitive area in addition to filing the report. Either way I can’t stay quiet. Not again.
I HATE being placed in this position. Hate, hate, hate it! I don’t deserve this. No one does.
The bruise on my knee isn’t nearly as painful as the bruise to my spirit.
(Nope. Not my actual knee. Image credit: yanowhatimean.com}