Harassment is a word that seems to many funny or trendy. There is a popular belief that many women today talk about harassment that happened to them years ago, because this is a "trend". In fact, when faced with harassment, many feel confused, someone is afraid to tell the truth. And some experienced harassment at an age when they did not even know what it was. Wonderzine spoke to the harassment survivors about why they didn't immediately realize what had happened and didn't talk about it.
When this story happened, I was thirteen or fourteen years old. I hardly remember this time - we then had family problems, and everything was mixed up in a heap. For years, I didn't even remember what happened. And then, when the flash mob "I'm not afraid to say" began, she suddenly popped up in my memory.
I was an inexperienced child, did not go out with "adult companies", all the time I sat at home and read books. I didn't even think about sex at that age, so when strange things began to happen in my life, I completely did not understand their real meaning.
Then I really wanted to learn how to play the guitar. There was no free money. Mom's friends chipped in to help her buy me an instrument - it was a whole event. Then my mother went to the best music school in our town and agreed with the director about private lessons. I understood that this was a big responsibility: it was not easy for my mother to buy a guitar and now I had to take my studies seriously.
The director was a round man with a bald head. He seemed elderly to me, although he was probably really middle-aged. After school lessons, I came to him for classes. Cossack paraphernalia hung in the office: once the director played in a Cossack ensemble and was very proud of it. The room sometimes smelled of alcohol. A couple of times I noticed cognac or cans of Gin and Tonic in his desk drawers.
We learned chords and the basics of musical notation. If I did something wrong, he could scold me. And sometimes he picked up and slapped on the priest. I thought, "That's funny, he thinks I'm small." It seemed to me like an old man's quirk.
Once, when I was practicing the song "A Star Called Sun", I made especially many mistakes. There was a green leather sofa in my teacher's office. He bent me over the armrest, and he sat down on this sofa and spanked me for quite a long time. And then I got the feeling that something was wrong. I could not formulate anything, but I realized that there was something unhealthy in the fact that I was lying upside down in this guy’s office, and he was spanking me.
I stopped attending classes, but could not explain anything to anyone. For a long time I felt guilty in front of my mother. During a quarrel, she could remind me how I "wanted to make music, and then I quit." For some reason I was ashamed to tell about what happened. It wasn't until years later that I finally explained to her. She was terrified, asked: "Why didn't you tell me right away?" But at the moment when all this was happening, I did not understand that a person commits a crime, violates my boundaries and rights. That he has no right to do it. If I then understood everything that I understand now, I would immediately tell my mother and the police about everything. I think I was far from the only girl with whom he did this.
Ten years ago, I came to my first job at the editorial office of a newspaper. We had a colleague - he was considered the best journalist of the publication, the right hand of the editor-in-chief. Many people in the city knew him. I treated him as an authority. Over time, I noticed that at every corporate event or party, he begins to grab the girls for different places - as if as a joke.He molested not everyone - only non-conflict girls with a gentle character. I, too, was one of them. Once at a holiday we all took a common photo, he stood behind and put his arm around my shoulders, and then dropped his hand on my chest. I didn’t know how to react - it was unpleasant for me, I was perplexed. But, looking around, I realized that everyone around sees what is happening and no one pays attention to it. Even the wife of this colleague was there and did not react in any way to his actions. I pretended that nothing special had happened, and carefully disengaged myself.
Similar stories happened again. Each time it seemed to me: if I start to resent loudly, I will make myself look stupid. Probably, everyone understands that our colleague is just joking, and I am "wrong" about this. Sometimes I asked to remove my hands, but he waved him off: "Come on, I'm friendly." It seemed that if I began to express a serious protest, raise publicly the question of his behavior, it would be inappropriate - everyone thought that what he was doing was funny.
A couple of years ago, when the #MeToo hashtag appeared, I read different stories and thought: "How lucky I am that nothing happened to me - no one harassed me." But in some posts I suddenly saw something familiar. I vividly recalled that story, and I realized that I did not at all perceive the actions of my colleague as a friendly gesture. I shared my thoughts with some acquaintances. Someone asked: "What did you do that he pawed at you?" I realized: for a long time it seemed to me that I myself provoked a colleague into this behavior, and I convinced myself that what he did was normal. But in fact, he had no right to put his hand on my chest and even touch me without permission. For the first time, I realized that I was very angry with him and this situation. To understand everything, I devoted several sessions with a psychologist to this issue.
I know that this colleague is now working in a different edition, but at parties he continues to hug and touch girls in a “friendly way”. Perhaps he never understood anything. But for me, everything has changed since then: today I would tell a person harshly that they shouldn't touch me.
Four years ago I joined a new company. At first I was very happy - it was a job that I really wanted to get. But I immediately started having misunderstandings with the new team. I used to work in an office, where there was a very free, creative atmosphere, everyone was friends and communicated on equal terms. Here, a rigid hierarchy was built - a very important role was played by who is who is the boss.
We did not coincide with the new team, it seems, in nothing at all. I tried to joke, but my colleagues did not understand and asked: "What do you mean?" I felt stupid. When I talked about my ideas, they also asked: "What do you mean?" I heard this question all the time. For the first time in my life I felt like an outsider, I was confused and depressed.
The company was run by a hired manager. He was feared and respected. Leaving the office, where he had just lectured everyone, they said: "But he is right!" In his presence, no one could use foul language, no one could joke with him - any familiarity was excluded. But he could easily make fun of one of the subordinates at the meeting. Often his jokes were vulgar. For example, you say: “I monitored …” And he interrupts: “Oh, did you monitor today? And how often do you monitor? " - in such a tone, as if we are talking about something intimate. He knew how to make a person feel stupid. But there were other moments: when it seemed to me that I was failing, he suddenly praised me and encouraged me. I felt like a small child who is afraid of unpredictable parents and at the same time expects praise from them.
Once I was working, and he stood behind me for a long time and watched what I was doing. We were discussing some project, and then he began to massage my shoulders, then began to run his fingers along the line of the underwear - along the straps and the fastener. I was very surprised, but said nothing.There were other people around, they saw everything, but did not react. I thought: what if I just screwed myself up? I’ll start out loud and look stupid. This happened several more times - we were working on something, he ran his hands over me, I was silent.
All this surprised me - the behavior of the boss, colleagues, my own. Then it got even stranger. My girlfriend worked in another department. I knew that he and her, too, often sit together in front of the computer. Once my colleagues and I were all standing together, and suddenly she, as if casually, touched his hand. I have not seen anyone else in the company allow themselves to do this - the subordination was observed very strictly.
I don't know why, but I wanted to check: can I also take his hand? If he touches me, maybe I can? As if I was drawn to check the boundaries. I waited for the right moment and tried to touch him as if by chance, as a joke. He pulled his hand away and asked what I was doing. I was terribly embarrassed, I felt stupid. So it turned out that only he can initiate physical contact.
As a result, I left the company - not because of the boss, but in general because I didn't like working there. I was given strange tasks: for example, to defame former partners in a public field. Black PR, unhealthy atmosphere in the team - all this tired me.
About a year after leaving, I was finally able to reflect on what was happening. Rumors reached me that the same leader had let his employers down and was ruining the company. If earlier everyone considered him almost a god of business, now the halo has dissipated. I began to think about him more often and realized that at that time I had every right to ask him: "What are you doing?" He should not have touched me, it was not normal - as well as the fact that everyone saw it and were silent.
When I first started out, I had a good relationship with my first editor. In fact, he taught me the profession and was an absolute authority for me. When he died suddenly, it was a tragedy for me. The project where we worked with him immediately began to fall apart, and this made it even worse.
At that moment, my boss's best friend called me to work - he was also an elderly person. He then launched a new project, we had a small editorial office, about seven people. We all knew very well, and his wife also worked there. I also treated the new editor with respect and listened to advice. He could give me a lift home if we finished late, give me a souvenir from the trip. Maybe I was inattentive, but it seemed to me that this was a completely innocent relationship between a young professional and an experienced boss.
Once we were driving home, and he began to say strange things: "Tanya, you are so many years old, is it time to think about family and children?" By the way, I was twenty-two or twenty-three then. He continued, "I really want a second child." And then he began to hint that we could "come up with" something together. I looked at the gray hair that was sticking out of his ears and was in absolute shock. I could not even think that he perceives me in such a way. When he finished, I politely but clearly explained that I had other plans for life. It didn't seem to me that he was abusing his power. I thought: "Fooling around, anything can happen." But after a while, he fired me without severance pay, explaining that this was a reduction. Right before that, I finished a very important project, so there was no reason to lay off me.
Then I began to understand that this is not a story about personal sympathies, not about an offer and refusal - this is a story about power. Later, I encountered very similar situations several times. Once another boss, when I rejected his advances, cut my salary by 70%. I quit, and in my place they took a man with a salary much higher than mine.
When this happened for the first time, I said nothing. I did not fully understand the situation and what role his official position played in it.Now, when I remember this story, I feel rage. This man is spoken of as an exemplary family man, a wonderful father. And this makes it especially disgusting. Now, many years later, I will no longer sort things out publicly - it seems to me that this makes no sense now. But if this happened to me again, I would never remain silent - I would tell about what happened to everyone who can, would provide maximum publicity.
This story happened more than twenty years ago - I was a minor then and studied at the institute. My mother got a new job, they had a small office and friendly, family relationships. We didn’t have a computer at home, and so after classes I came to my mother’s work to write a term paper. Her boss treated me kindly: he encouraged me, gave me advice. And then he started pestering me. I don’t know if it happened with my mother’s tacit approval, or if she was not aware. He did not just touch me, but actually raped me. This happened every few months.
Perhaps my mother herself had feelings for him. Sometimes the three of us went to the bathhouse with him, and she was not at all embarrassed that we were all naked in front of each other. I didn't like the whole situation: I cried at night, scratched my hands with sharp objects. But I didn’t realize that the actions of my mother’s boss were illegal. I perceived it as a necessary evil and never thought that I could stop it. I was taught to obey elders. And he was a respected person. In addition, he once helped our family in difficult times, and I felt obligated to him.
This whole story seemed abnormal to me, it depressed me. But I lacked knowledge, self-confidence, experience. It seemed to me that you just have to endure. Once I told my mother what was going on. She called him and talked. After that, he said: "Well, you say when you don't like something, and I will not do that." I cried, but I could not give a clear rebuff.
It all ended when I grew up and moved. I tried to do it as soon as possible - in many ways to end this story. It took me six years of life and psychotherapy to understand what exactly was happening to me. Now I understand that I had the right to fight back, go to the police. I understand that it was violence. But then I still did not think in such terms. Today, if someone were to behave like this to me, I would immediately tell that person to stop. Or maybe she would have given it in the face.
It happened a year and a half ago at work, in the afternoon. I sat on a chair with my legs tucked under me. My senior colleague came into the office, came up from the back and touched my ass. At first I did not understand what had happened. Then she jumped up and stared at him in a daze. He said with a smile: "You were sitting so comfortably that I could not pass by." I said in perplexity that I did not know how to behave, because he is a respected person, otherwise I would have just hit him. He replied: “Well, what are you? I’m like a father.” There was another woman in the office, she looked at all this in silence.
I told a close friend of the incident. She asked, “Is this a problem? And did he mean something bad? Yes, he probably won't get up. It was just a bad joke. " I heard about the same from different people when I tried to ask for support. I also worked with various psychotherapists. I was tormented by the question: if a person did not put any sexual connotation, can the incident be considered harassment? Or am I just making up my mind and amusing myself in vain?
I went to the Sisters help center. At first I was embarrassed, because they work with victims of violence, but, in fact, nothing happened to me - I am alive and well. But the center told me clearly: yes, it was violence, and it hurt you. They explained to me that psychological violence is comparable to physical violence in terms of the degree of impact on a person. What is happening to me is post-traumatic stress disorder.
Even now I cannot calmly see the mention of this person, I am unpleasant to see him. The most offensive thing is that I cannot restore justice and get punishment, because harassment is not officially a crime.
I thought: maybe the person did not understand what pain he caused me? Some time after what happened, I wrote him an e-mail. The answer, in short, was: “We are from different generations, for me it is as insignificant as pulling a girl's pigtail. If you think carefully, you will understand that there is nothing to worry about."
Many times I have heard women facing violence justify their abuser and blame themselves. From the outside, I can recognize such a situation, but it's much more difficult when such a process takes place in your head. You begin to convince yourself: I was not raped, why am I showing off? Only now did I finally admit that what happened was harassment. The most painful thing is that a person whom I trusted and respected became a participant in this story. It turned out that we live in different worlds and he doesn't even understand what happened.
Many of my friends had similar stories. Each of them, sharing with me, said: “Just don't tell anyone. I know how this person can get me. " I myself was also afraid to talk about what happened. Now that I have a better understanding of what is happening, I understand that this should not be silent. This is the only way to change something.
We met at work. I am a journalist, he is a newsmaker. I asked him to meet with me and discuss the topic that I raised in the material. He turned out to be open and charming, joked, showed attention - as it seemed to me, kindly and fatherly. He helped me with the material, introduced me to the right people, gave me a couple of good advice. We continued to chat, and one day he offered to meet and chat over dinner. It was interesting for me to talk to him, I accepted the invitation. While we talked, I did not notice how I drank too much. When we had eaten, he offered to take a walk and pick up the book he wanted to give me from somewhere.
We left the cafe and entered the building opposite. There were hotel rooms, but it didn't strike me as strange - I got drunk and didn't realize that something was going wrong. This person was nice to me, I felt safe.
Continuing to speak, he led me into the room, began to touch my hands. I pulled them back, but he caught him again, began to try to kiss them and said: "You will be fine." I said no clearly many times, but it didn't work. There was no physical strength to resist. He pulled off my clothes, asked to touch him. Before my eyes began to float, and I quickly ceased to resist. Fortunately, it was limited to kissing and touching - apparently because my companion did not have an erection.
When the alcohol weared off, I felt terribly ashamed. It seemed that I was "dirty", that I myself was to blame for what had happened. I voluntarily came to the meeting, drank. Didn't try to run away when I realized we were in a hotel room. I said to myself: “He did not beat me, did not tie me up, there was no penetration. What kind of violence is this?"
He called me and stalked me on social networks, as if not realizing that he had done something unpleasant. However, even I did not understand what had happened. I continued to convince myself that nothing terrible had happened, but I felt monstrous. Sometimes I started to gasp, most of all - before going to bed. When he called, I answered - I was afraid that if I stopped doing this, he would appear at my work, study something. It was scary that everyone would understand about our "connection" and this would discredit me.
I shared my problem with a couple of close friends, tried going to a psychologist. Nothing helped. Maybe because I presented this situation like this: "I have here something happened to a man drunk." I didn't admit to myself that everything happened against my will.
Seven months later, I called the Sisters center.For the first time, I just breathed into the pipe, dropped it and burst into tears. After a couple of days, I dialed again and began to speak. The psychologist listened to me and said, “What you are describing is sexual assault. Do you understand that this person is a criminal? " Her replica turned everything upside down. It was as if the river, which had covered me headlong, had turned back. For a couple of months I dealt with all this. I ended up blocking this person everywhere. And nothing terrible happened.
It's hard to believe, but it really took me a long time to understand: this man is to blame, not my gullibility. Even if it was a date, even if I was his wife, he wouldn't have the right to do that. That even a very respected person, from whom you do not expect anything like this, can do this.
It is very difficult to understand that there is no “standard of harassment”. If you were not maimed or killed, this does not mean that there was no violence or it was not real. There is nothing shameful about realizing what happened months or years later. And in asking for help.
Photos: Olga - stock.adobe.com (1, 2, 3, 4)