Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Other Side of the #MeToo Movement


The #MeToo Movement can be defined as a social movement against sexual violence and sexual assault that advocates for females who survived sexual violence to speak out about their experience. It is also - for me - a movement of people finally stopping keeping secrets and stopping the secrets from having power over them. 



When the #MeToo movement started I was elated to finally have acknowledged just how much of a wide scale the problem of sexual harassment is.  I have been sexually harassed and assaulted in many different scenarios – ranging from childhood trauma to being a successful and highly educated woman.


In part I was able to speak of the harassment I received.  I could speak about sexually harassed by my boss while I was working at Computer Boulevard in Winnipeg. Known at the time also as CBiT I worked directly under the Vice President of the Company Richard Balmer. He would do small things like come into the office and slap be on the back. He would also make some dirty jokes with the other guys who worked in the back office. 

The most horrific thing he every did to me was on a day when I went in to a meeting with the president in his office. The President of the company had a known history of smoking in his office and I have an allergy to smoke. After having a meeting in his office about some project that was ongoing I was walking back to my office and as I was doing this the guys in the network area were having lunch. They were eating sushi together at the table when Richard saw me coughing a little bit and then he asked me if I was having trouble swallowing while he motioned with his hand to and from his mouth with his tongue in his check having it bulge out. I want to be 100% clear he was making a motion that clearly indicated to myself and the others in the room that he was suggesting that I had just given the president of the company a blow job. I was horrified and then he encouraged the other people sitting with him at the table to make jokes at my expense and frankly I don’t and can’t remember them. I just remember feeling completely and totally humiliated. I walked in to my office, which was shared by Richard, myself and one other person. I had no choice but to walk through the meeting room to get back and forth to my office space. I didn’t know what I was going to do at the time because I felt stuck as I had been looking for a permanent full-time job for a while and I couldn’t think of having to start the job hunt all over again. The worst part was that Richard knew this and he held this power over me.


The only bright side of this interaction was during the same week I ended up receiving a letter saying that I was accepted into a program so I would be returning to work on a full-time basis. I worked a letter explaining everything that had happened and gave it to the other manager of the store and to his credit he took it extremely seriously. But writing the letter and even going to speak to him was terrifying, I had contemplated just calling and saying I quit and from the time I drove to work until I spoke with the second manager in the back I kept thinking of running in the other direction.

I had not had a good relationship with the store manager before as I had snipped and been grumpy with him previously. But on this day when I told him I needed to talk to him somewhere private (it’s a warehouse with some office space) and gave him the letter. As soon as he started reading the letter I broke down and I was in tears. He showed the greatest deal of empathy for me and apologized for not asking more when he saw that I was having difficulty at the office.  Once the President was informed he had a great deal of empathy for the situation. He asked to meet with me immediately and then ensured that we went to a different office and he apologized profusely for having me in his office previously he didn't know about my smoke allergy. 

They sent Richard home for the following two weeks while I completed the project I was working on, they even moved me into the training classroom so that I could in a different environment away from the other guys in that room. That was his only punishment for the actions that he made. I know that at least one of the other guys in the room felt bad for me - he is a friend of my brother's and he apologized in the years since the incident as he felt horrible for the treatment I received. 


To him I now say – your little interactions and tiny jokes of this nature have lasted with me to this day, some 17 years later I wear that scar and say #MeToo. I am also tired of keeping this with me and keeping it a secret of what happened and telling a lie about the punishment you received to make myself feel utterly less pathetic and that I was actually able to face the person who violated me. 


... I know he wanted to keep [him] a secret from me, but I don't like secrets. You think you're keeping the secret, but really it's keeping you. (p 237)

To the guys who were working in that department and heard and saw what was going on I choose to have some faith in humanity that you felt sorry and scared and that is the only reason you chose to do nothing to stop what happened and to protect me from having to endure that. 


To people who are in that situation in the future – help – it is your moral duty to help protect that person. By standing by and doing nothing you help him – you helped him diminish me, making me feel small, terrible and worthless. 



For me here is where the #MeToo movement becomes much more complicated and difficult. The number of times that I have been violated are too numerous to count. I have suffered through countless traumas and one of the most difficult thing is that they are kept secret. The worst part is that these secrets have been kept in emotional jars, boxes and vaults that are with me every single second and minute of the day. I carry them with me at all times and to all places. The stress and trauma of carrying these violations with me is beyond difficult and complicated to explain. In one part I carry them in tightly closed and control manners so that these things cannot come out and hurt or haunt me... or at least I try to. 


I want to use the metaphor I have been using with my counsellor – the traumas are my monsters – little demons that have hurt me. The jars and boxes are the cages for these monsters. As time goes on I continue collecting these jars and monsters and stack them up and keep walking forward because I have no choice. The problem is that eventually that stack of jars and boxes becomes so big you quickly fail to know or realize how big the stack got. What happens then is deceiving, debilitating and terrible. Some of the jars break shattering glass everywhere cutting through all parts of you and your life. 


It’s funny because when a jar breaks I consider it LUCKY if I knew what was in that jar because I could run around throwing band aids over the parts of me that were cut. If band aids weren’t big enough I would throw blankets over it the cuts left and then I would take the shards I could find and the demon and then put them all back together neatly in another slightly bigger jar or box and then add them back to the stack. I would say it was luck to knew what was in the jar because I could identify and name what that little bastard demon was. 


The problem with the huge stack of jars and boxes it blocks things – it blocks your views of all the demons and monsters to the point that I don’t know all the demons and monsters there. Beyond that the stack starts to spread out to other areas and starts to block memories and not just memories of the bad but memories of the good. I have a person that I knew from high school and it is weird... I remember one of the first times I talked to her after high school but honestly don’t remember being friends with her in high school at all until our reunion. She and a few others talked about times and things that I had done with them. I could not remember any of these things or events and some of them were not insignificant – when I went looking through my mind they weren’t there they were completely gone. Blocked by the emotional mess that has been left behind by these jars and boxes. 


This brings me back to #MeToo. A first it was like a major breath of fresh air in – it was like someone had taken this weighted blanket off and for the first time it seems a little better. But as I sat and looked at the jars and boxes all I could see was that I was going to have to double down on making sure I kept these jars and boxes were closed.  I cannot talk about the things that happened to me as a child for fear of it impacting the person who harmed me – and there is more than one but telling my secret would me them probably having to tell their secrets. I cannot even get into why and how I would want to protect their secrets.  As I looked on more of the trauma I kept this person’s information a secret because of this. I kept what this person did to me a secret because of what it would do to their reputation and what I would feel people would think about me. I am and was worried about people judging me for the stupid and terrible things I was doing in my life making bad decisions and thereby saying things like I had I coming, I don’t deserve empathy or support because of my part, that I should be ashamed of myself. 


So here I sit shackled to this pile of monsters guarding them in their jars and boxes, feeling like I can do nothing with it other than protect it - not just to protect myself but to make sure I protect those that have harmed me. So with all the liberation and empowerment that the #MeToo movement has brought not just to myself and others here I sit still waiting and pondering. 

So this year I have chosen my word to focus on is #Power taking my power back over my life, over my feelings. 

I have just finished reading a book that has taken... 8 months to read. The book is Confessions of a Forty Something  by Alexandra Potter  #noideawhatimdoing and I leave you with this

... I know he wanted to keep [him] a secret from me, but I don't like secrets. You think you're keeping the secret, but really it's keeping you. (p 237)

For so long I've been keeping this secret, but know I realize it's been keeping me. Keeping me stuck. Keeping me from changing my narrative from one of fear and failure. 

I look out across the horizon, at this vast, wide open space and I feel very small. In my hands I feel the paper fluttering in the breeze; all the sadness I've kept buried deep inside, all the ashes of my past waiting to be carried away on the wind.

And then I let it go (p 331-332) 


1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry that you had to go through this. I have also interacted with this person and he is a terrible human being.