The new HBO film Confirmation details the events surrounding the sexual harassment claims brought by Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas during his confirmation for the Supreme Court. I was too young when the trial took place to remember any of it now but I thought Kerry Washington and Greg Kinnear as then senator Joe Biden turned out excellent performances. The movie has been met with harsh criticism citing the filmmakers’ agenda to perpetuate the “bogus war on women” in order to bolster Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency.
The reception of the movie and the reception women like Hill get in the public and in the media is precisely why women like me choose not to come forward about issues of sexual harassment. During my time at Acalanes High School in Lafayette, California I was repeatedly sexually harassed by a trusted coworker. My coworker, a middle-aged shop teacher at the school, took my confidence and trust in him and abused it by making inappropriate sexual comments towards me in and outside of the workplace. Up to that point, I considered this man a confidant and a friend. When he began telling me how sexy I was, I became uncomfortable and wrote him a letter asking him to stop.
It was not until later that I realized he had groomed me with compliments, playful joking (some of it sexual) and listening to me when I was struggling and in need of support. He also confided in me, sharing personal feelings and experiences, thereby creating pressure on me to accept and excuse his behavior. I confided in my supervising instructor but did not divulge details. She was supportive and asked him to stop visiting our classroom. He proceeded to approach me multiple times at work asking me to discuss the situation with him; one such time consisted of him sitting directly behind me during my lunch hour and saying nothing. Needless to say, I was extremely uncomfortable and declined his request.
Like many other women, I beat up on myself. I felt stupid and ashamed of choices I’d made in my relationship with this man. I kept most of it to myself out of embarrassment and fear of being judged. I had one friend who supported me regardless of the circumstances and vehemently identified him as a predator.
I still struggle with this today and watching Confirmation brought up a lot of feelings regarding my abusive past. I know in my head that what he did was wrong. I know that if another woman had come to me in the same situation, I would tell her that nothing she could do would warrant that type of behavior from him–not to mention he was more than 20 years my senior and he had introduced me to his wife and son. I would tell any other woman that his behavior was inexcusable and that he was a predator.
Victims will often experience multiple abusive relationships over their lifetime. I still blame myself for much of it, wondering “What’s wrong with me that this keeps happening?” Even so, I know that predators are skilled at what they do. They know what to look for and how best to attract their prey. Most of the predators I’ve had the misfortune of knowing are adept at luring people in with sweetness, compliments and favors much like pimps lure girls into prostitution. The “kind” or “benevolent” predator is just as dangerous if not more so than the predator who seems suspect. By the time one notices the betrayal,the damage is done and there’s no undoing it.
Finally, perhaps the biggest reason for this post is to put some of the blame where it belongs–on him. So I will say:
Damn you! Damn you for making me so fucking uncomfortable at my job and in my skin. Damn you for whispering in my ear how sexy I was in a room full of our coworkers so I could feel embarrassed and ashamed and COMPLETELY alone. Damn you for asking me to “help you” get your massage license–I fucking trusted you. Damn you for waiting until I was naked on your fucking table to tell me that if you were “2o years younger” and how “bad” I was for needing more pressure on sore muscles. One of the reasons I work out is so I can defend myself against disgusting losers like you! Fuck you for introducing me to your wife and son before coming on to me in your house. Fuck you for making me feel safe and understood and appreciated and then reducing me to NOTHING with your fucking come-ons! I hate you. I hope you get hit by a truck or saw your fucking fingers off or misfire your nail gun into your groin you piece of shit! Fuck you. If there is a hell I hope you fucking burn in it!