Mature Material Warning: This post contains screenshots of conversations containing sexual overtones.
After my post yesterday, a few people have reached out to me. I’ve become aware that my messages (highlights are below) are absolutely tame compared to some of the filth he sent.
I started this mini-series about an experience I recently had with sexual harassment. We really only talked about the background, so I’ll get into details below.
Before I do, though, I want to point out one thing. None of these messages were sent to me while I was at my job. I cannot imagine how I would have reacted had they come to me while I was at work.
I like to think I would have reported him. I hope I would have reported him.
As it was, though, I didn’t have anyone to report him to. It was just me, dealing with a lot of my own crap, and getting these weird messages from him that I couldn’t figure out what I had done to deserve.
I know that even after reading this whole post, some people are going to be throwing shade. “I mean, that’s not too bad. Why is she overreacting like this?”
Honestly, I just don’t have time for you. You’re probably one of those people who thinks it’s okay to catcall a woman or squeeze her butt as she walks by.
Also, the man was fired for this behavior. Are my feelings an overreaction? Probably not. In fact, since I said nothing to anyone, I probably underreacted. And that thought alone makes me very uncomfortable.
My notes are in blue bubbles. Director’s notes are gray.
Part Two: The Harassment
Director followed me on Facebook and Instagram. He’d like pics or posts every now and then, but mostly we weren’t in touch.
And then, about a month after I quit, I got a message from him asking how I was doing. He poked a little to find out why I had quit, which I hadn’t been silent about — again, my business to tell — but I also wasn’t holding a grudge over, so I told him the bare bones and left it at that.
A few days later, I got another message. Again just checking in. This time he asked what I like to do to relax. I told him writing and hiking with my dog.
This is the first time things got a little sexual.
But, really, this didn’t bother me because it doesn’t seem that bad, right? I was probably misinterpreting, right?
He’d never made such overtly sexual comments before, but these are really very tame. The massage guy comment was weird enough, though, that I kinda trailed off after that, and I felt bad about it. He was just trying to get to know me, and I was sitting over here uncomfortable, and that made me a bad person, right?
He went back to normal: awkward but seemingly well-meaning.
After this message, it became a strange almost…game. The Question Game. He would randomly message me, often from the office, and ask me a question.
No, I’m not that much of a nerd. Yes, I do have crazier stories to share. But at this juncture I was already starting to get some strange vibes from these conversations. Nothing I could pinpoint, really, just a feeling, and it made me put up a bit of a wall.
The questions were sporadic and unpredictable, and mostly just made me uncomfortable. But it was important to me to stay on good terms with everyone I had felt so close to at the office. So I just tried to steer the game he was playing towards safer waters.
My questions — which he insisted I ask — were always tame. And he would always answer with one word; I’m assuming to show his irritation.
Insisted is a strong word, but if I didn’t ask my question, I would get prompted, which he does below and in another convo further into this post.
From there, his wife began to appear more frequently in his messages. This is around the time he also began getting more and more sexually descriptive.
And more and more suggestive.
I always brushed it off, changed the subject, or refused to respond at all. And afterwards, inexplicably, he would be back to normal for a few weeks, asking how life has been, if I had any book recommendations for his wife, etc.
Eventually, though, like an addict, he always needed another hit. And I tried to steer it to safer, more neutral territory.
I shared more in the above exchange than I was strictly comfortable sharing with Director. I’m not really all that comfortable sharing it with the internet, either, but I feel like honesty is pretty important in this post. So there is it, forever emblazoned onto this blog for the whole world to see, my aversion to one night stands.
But he just wouldn’t let it go and would answer my attempts with things like this:
I was still worried about keeping a good relationship with everyone back at the office, though, and everyone loved Director. He was one of the highest ranking members of his team. He was one of the VPs’ and C-levels’ favorites and close friends outside of work with the department head. He had been with the company for at least four years, maybe longer, in a department that averages 1m to 3y turnovers.
I was particularly worried about maintaining those relationships since I wasn’t seeing my work friends in person much. And, once I left on my road trip, I wasn’t seeing them at all. So, if he decided to get mad at me, he had all the power to kill those friendships.
As you can see, I began letting more and more time slide between our messages. I only responded to the non-sexual messages.
But that didn’t stop him because he didn’t care how I felt about it. This was the very last message he sent me.
After this, his Facebook was shut down.
Before I get into the fallout — and there is fallout and emotional reaction to the fallout — let’s recap.
What I should have done:
Told him “You’re making me uncomfortable. Stop it.”
What I did do:
Stopped responding to anything sexual.
What wasn’t my responsibility:
Controlling his actions.
What was my responsibility:
Keeping myself safe.
I can honestly say I did that. I kept myself safe to the best of my ability at the time. I learned a lot from this situation, and I can resolutely say it will never happen to me this way again.
In retrospect, I know exactly how it would have shaken out if he had gotten angry with me and decided to do battle by ruining my reputation. The catty gossips — and every office has them — would have spread rumors. A few people would have believed them because they like to believe the worst in women. And some people would have stopped speaking to me.
But my real friends would have said “WTF? Kaitlin, what the heck is going on?”
I should have given the people I care about more credit in this situation. And that’s the only thing about this whole mess that I genuinely regret. Because, to be honest with you, I didn’t do anything that deserves regret.
I’ll talk about the fallout tomorrow.
Listening to: “All Hands On the Bad One” Sleater-Kinney