My Story:  It Wasn’t Illegal Then

My Story: It Wasn’t Illegal Then

Why didn’t I report it?

“Will I lose my job if I say no?” I asked. “I can’t help you,” replied the Vice President of Human Resources.

It was sometime in the early 1980’s – I’m guessing about 1982 or so. I worked at a large, high-tech firm in the Human Resources department as an analyst. I’d been with the company for a few years by then.

The Executive Assistant to our President came by and told me that I had been selected by the VP of Operations to be his date at a dinner that would include a select group of young female employees. I did not know the EA well except to say hello in the hallway. Nor did I really know much about our VP of Operations except that he was worked in the same building, was very tall, black, and married. “Is the President going?” I asked. “No” was the reply, “just a few executives and board members and us. You’ve got to go! It will be fun!” she said.

Immediately, I went to my direct manager (ironically, the Employee Relations Manager) and told him what had occurred. After I explained the invitation, I asked him what he thought I should do. I was newly divorced and had dated a few guys from the office (peons like me) but never went out with a married man! He said he didn’t know what I should do but suggested I talk to the VP of Human Resources, who was his boss as well as my second level manager.

I peeked in to her office and asked if she had a minute. When she beckoned me in, I explained the invitation to dinner. I told her that I really was uncomfortable and didn’t really want to go but was worried about losing my job if I didn’t go. “Will I lose my job if I say no?” I asked. I was hoping, as the Vice President of Human Resources, she would be able to protect my job. “I can’t help you,” she replied. “I don’t know what will happen if you say no. I can’t protect you if you say yes or if you say no.”

Understand that J was an up-and-coming executive, probably in his late 30’s to early 40’s at the time. The company was investing a lot in grooming J to become the President successor. He was a powerful man at the company and I was just a regular employee.

I was only 24 years old. My career in Human Resources was just starting and I was on my own after a short marriage. I needed the job desperately. I decided I had to go. As I informed the EA, she told me I could home early and change and she would clear it with my boss.

The VP of Operations – let’s call him “J” – met me back at the office and we took off to San Francisco in his Porsche. Once we arrived at the Yacht Club, I recognized a few other young ladies at the table and many of the executives and board members. We were apparently matched up 1:1 with each executive and board member selecting his own date from the pool of employees. I was nervous and quiet but it seemed as though a few of the other women may have been out to dinner like this before as they were chatty and laughing. One of the girls asked me to go into the restroom with her and a few other girls, and J handed me a vial as I stood to go to the restroom. In the restroom light I saw that it was white powder and my co-worker squealed, “Great!! That’s coke! Let’s do some!” I wasn’t a stranger to cocaine but I knew that with drinks and cocaine, it was going to be a late night and things could become crazy. I had to go to work the next day. I was bewildered.

After dinner, J said he would take me home. However, “home” meant his home. I could only surmise that his wife was out of town or he had an apartment for himself and these types of liaisons. I told J that I needed to work the next day but he assured me that he would take care of it if I wanted to sleep in. J then approached me and started kissing me. I didn’t know what to do! I broke off the kissing and exclaimed “you’re married” and he replied simply “she’s not here right now” and proceeded to lead me into the bedroom. The sex we had would be considered consensual, I suppose, although I clearly felt I needed to have intercourse with him in order to keep my job.

About a week went by and J called me on my office phone and invited me out to dinner. Once again, I did not want to go but felt I had no choice in order to keep my job. The minute I got into J’s car, he handed me a vial of cocaine. He drove to a very nice restaurant where we had dinner. I wasn’t hungry due to the cocaine and could hardly talk. I think I bored J during that dinner. But not enough that he did not bring me back to his home to have sex again. Once again, it was consensual, but not welcome and I knew my job was still on the line.

I was ashamed of what I did. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. But I still had the job so I let it go. I knew I’d get no help at work. I’d already tried.

J left me alone after that last dinner. I saw him at company functions with his beautiful wife. She was pregnant and they eventually had a little boy. I’ve known men that cheated before and they did so when their wives were pregnant. I chalked it off to that. And I still had my job but it wasn’t the last time I would be subjected to unwanted sexual advances at this company.

The next time it was in inside job by our Manager of Recruiting. We will call him “Jo”. He was a married man with children and quite good looking. One night, Jo told me that a few colleagues were meeting at a jazz bar nearby and asked me if I wanted to go. Still single with nothing to do, I said sure, what time? He told me 7:30 and said he’d meet me there. I asked who else was going and he replied that a lot of co-workers were planning to go.

At 7:30, I entered this dark bar and saw Jo sitting in a U-shaped booth….alone. He saw me and called me over. As I approached the table, I asked Jo what happened to everyone else and he said they probably couldn’t make it. Although a bit unsettling, I knew Jo from work so I sat down. The minute I sat down, Jo tried to kiss and grope me. I told him to stop and managed to get up and leave the bar.

A few weeks later, our entire department was invited to Jo’s house for a BBQ. Most of my co-workers were going – this time I checked to be sure. We were all having a pretty good time at Jo’s house and his wife was a wonderful hostess. His kids were noisy and cute, running around as kids do. At one point, I excused myself to go to the restroom that was down a long hall. As I exited the restroom, Jo was right at the door. He grabbed me and tried to kiss and grope me. I hissed at him to stop and he tried to get me back into the bathroom. I was small and quick and ducked under him and hustled back to the party.

At work the following week, Jo called me into his office and warned me not to tell anyone because they wouldn’t believe me because he was a manager and I was just a nobody. I told him what he did was wrong and walked out. I did tell a co-worker but she told me to just let it go and avoid Jo. I did and eventually, Jo left the company.

By now, I’d been at the company a few years and was quite well known due to my role in internal communications and as the events coordinator. I was invited by my best friend’s boss to join a group of employees from his department that were going to his house to watch the Sugar Ray boxing match. My best friend was going so I was happy to go. After the boxing match, I needed to get home and went into the bedroom to retrieve my coat from the pile on the bed. While searching for my coat, my friend’s boss came in the room. Let’s call him R. R immediately pushed me against the wall and started kissing me and trying to tear off my clothes. I tried to push him away and scream but he was strong and bigger than me and he had put his hand over my mouth. Each time I pushed him, I made a little progress but he was right back on me. I was terribly frightened but knew there were still co-workers in another room and surely someone would come in! Finally, the door opened and R let go of me. I yelled at him to leave me alone and ran out of the room and the house watched by bewildered co-workers. I only told my best friend about her bosses’ actions. I warned her about him. She said it happened to her all the time. But nothing else was ever said or done. I had already learned there was nothing I could do.

Am I angry about these incidences? Not really. It was a long time ago. The laws were different. Women were not equal and were only just beginning to be given a voice. The fact that they had to be “given” a voice is appalling enough. There was general knowledge of the atrocities being forced on women by men but yet a quiet acceptance that “it’s just how it is.” Am I disgusted by the incidents? A resounding yes! And I learned from them and learned that I do have a voice, and I do have choices. I would never allow this to happen to me again. These men were very disrespectful of me, my body, my right to not be held by quid pro quo, my reputation, my choice.

What angers me now is that men (hello, Trump!) and some women believe that if it happened long ago and wasn’t reported to authorities, then it never happened. Not true!! When it happened years ago, women were told to get over it, just accept it as “how it is” and not pursue any recourse. It doesn’t make it right or okay that it happened. And these abused women should speak up at this time to lend perspective on the character of the person who was their abuser, however long ago it occurred.

J went on to be a well-respected leader of industry and yes, a successful CEO in high-tech. Jo had a good career with other companies and eventually retired. I do not know what happened to R, nor do I care. Successful and respected by others and or not, these men will forever be predators to me.

Author

WYR

WYR

When You're Ready.org is a community for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories.

Related