Sexual Coercion. Yes, it’s a thing.

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Previously, on this Ain’t No Bandwagon:

Obviously I’d made some serious error in judgement – again – early in this broadcasting career that brought on this type of debauchery. I wouldn’t do that again. I interviewed at television stations in the larger towns nearby. I sent applications all over the place. For everything.

I got a job with the government.

The Government!

No one could touch me!

They wouldn’t dare.

Right?

Wrong!

Remember I wanted to be able to pay all my bills with one job and have weekends off. Yes, kids, grades are still important. Because of my GPA in college and my ACT score previously, I was offered what was then called a Federal Government Career Ladder. There were hoops and prerequisites and boxes to check off, but the gist of how the career ladder worked was this:

At the age of 23 I would be making almost $29K.

By the time I was 27, I was guaranteed $45K.

I would be relocated to a place within the same region (or not) that needed my skill set.

I would then have a better than average chance to be making $60K before I was 29.

And onward.

Now, if you’ve read my Background, you know I’m from the South.

Being nice to people. It’s what we do well.

Being southern and polite, coupled with insecurities, lack of real-world experiences, low self-esteem and a non-existent support system; it was a prescription for failure.

First there was the fast food shift manager. Then there was the news director.

My first two months working for the Federal Government, some guy who was in Land Surveys would come downstairs for the sole purpose of getting me to make copies of his stuff for him. I was not hired to make copies. I was hired to make hires.

I figured, and still do, the Assistant hired for clerical work upstairs had told him where the copy machine was and which button to push. And it was just too much for him. He was older than my father.

He sought me out the day he retired to hug me. Which ended up being a full body rub. bleh

At least he was retired; now things would change.

One of the people in charge of my training was out of Atlanta. He introduced me to [what became known as] sexting.

The guy over all H.R. from Washington D.C. once gave me a red and black thong in the elevator after a conference dinner and kissed me square on the lips.

No More Leave

Just for clarification, I never had full-on sex with any of these individuals. After a few years, I also decided working in this big city dog-eat-dog environment was not worth it to me anymore. I would rather live in my mom’s basement then continue along this same hypocritical, phony, back-stabbing course.

I was propositioned by the building law enforcement officer soon after I moved. When he left another took his place. I was propositioned by him, too.

No More Nice Guy

Once, it got around the office that my husband was out of town for three days and I answered the phone to find a coworker was on my street with a six-pack to share.

Then when I thought it was finally all over, fifteen year career, there was the front desk information receptionist.

coersion

What the hell?

All the time, I tried to fix me.

And while other aspects of me needed fixing ( self-esteem, anxiety, depression, impostor syndrome ) this was not my fault.

Except that I did not know, really know, what to say, what to do, who to talk to, to stop it.

I didn’t have a label for it. And despite the Federal Government’s official stance that such actions would not be tolerated, they were.

Dont-judge-me-quotes-and-sayings

No one ever told me these were games; that [these kind of] men liked to play such games; that many of them had a compulsion to play. No one told me what the rules were. No one told me I didn’t have to play them. No one told me I would survive in the world if I walked away from these stupid games and stood with the goodness in my heart.

On the contrary. I was given the constant impression that – as a woman in a man’s world – these games were necessary to get to be where I wanted to be.

I thought that money – alone – was success. That not having to set tobacco to make ends meet, and driving a car instead of a used pick-up, and being able to pay rent/mortgage and buy groceries in the same month was where I wanted to be.

I was wrong.

So dead wrong.

I wish someone had explained all this to me before I ever left high school.

What I wanted was to be accepted on my own merit. To prove that I could do and have –  and still care and love.

What I wanted was to live my life free from judgements and assumptions and enjoy being with people who enjoyed being with me. For me. Just me.

That’s what I found in high school. Friends who just liked hanging out with me. I thought I had to be some certain way, but I didn’t. That’s what I found in college. I could do more than write and talk and tie tobacco leaves and dig potatoes. And I enjoyed it. And I enjoyed the work and working with the people and then spending time with the people after work.

I loved that!

THAT’S what I thought I was walking into, when I left college and entered “the real world.”

Nobody told me: Hey, if THAT is what you want, you still need to protect it. Foster it. Make a plan to keep it. Save it. Fight for it.

It. Is. Worth. It.

I needed to pay bills, but otherwise where did monetary success fit into this happiness and success?

No, I got dragged into these unnecessary damned games. And I kept dancing, pirouetting, reinventing aspects of me to be liked, to fit it, to excuse my behavior or my lack of experience.

No More Wearing

There was a huge learning curve and I was so far away from it, I didn’t even know it was kicking my ass.

I would get married and I’d be free to be me again.

I would have children.

I’ll keep that extra weight.

I’ll put on more weight.

It didn’t stop. I just kept on attracting that kind of attention and wondering what I was doing wrong.

This is what I wanted my children to avoid. This is what I wanted my husband to teach my daughters. These lessons that I should’ve been taught before I left the safety of the nest. You are in control. You have to know what it is you want, and you have to protect it, or go after it, and when someone pulls you in another direction, you have to know how to stop it and stay on track.

I was failing at this thing I’d called success.

My background didn’t accept failure as an option: If you fail, you fail alone.

It may be difficult for the young women entering the workforce today to comprehend how I could just keep my mouth shut.

And maybe that’s good, right?

I needed to succeed. I needed to feel good enough. At no point was I given permission – did I know I could give myself permission – to live my own life and to not accept anyone else’s shit. The more I did, the more ‘they’ thought it was okay to dole shit out.

The Fear

So it never went away. Regardless of what I thought I was doing to discourage the attention, it came anyway.

I have the utmost confidence that my eldest daughter would at the very least think twice about accepting any favors for favors. Or she would injure the other person.

My eldest has a friend who received scholarships and plans to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Just last week, they had this conversation.

her:    It’s great exposure. And $<this sum> per show.

mine:  Sounds great.

her:    But he wants me to sleep with him for it.

mine: Is that the kind of exposure you’re wanting?

her:    Is it wrong of me for considering it? I mean, it’s $<this sum> per show.

My daughter’s friend obviously has recognizable talent, she has scholarships already, but whether she gets this gig and gets paid well for it, depends on whether she sleeps with the director? Again? Have we learned nothing?

Okay, if it were me. And some would argue it was. This is what I would need to hear.

You don’t have to.

This is a game. You don’t have to play their stupid games. Even if you think you know the rules, they will change.

You don’t need to bend to their whims. Whims come and go. Just because he thinks he is in the position of power, he isn’t. There is no need to let him continue thinking he is.

You have the power.

If you didn’t, people like him wouldn’t be trying to take it from you, or hide it from others, or destroy it completely. (Wouldn’t be trying to convince you that You’re not good enough without his help.) Because while he may think he’s getting a little something on the side, and putting something over on you, what he’s actually saying is: I can’t let her think she can do any of this without me. She needs to think she needs me, and is powerless on her own.

If he likes one or two night hook-ups, there’s venues for that. Don’t compromise yourself and your principals thinking that oh, it’ll just be this, or that, or once. Or it’s because you’re prettier, or younger, or he finds you attractive. Because if there is you, then there were, and will be, others. Because once they see weakness, they will continue to exploit it. Because they are weak.

Do you want to be exploited? Or do you want to be able to look back five, fifteen, twenty-five years from now and say: I did it my way, on my own, without having to compromise. I was that good then. And I’m even better for it, now.

I am that good.

I am worth it.

I can do this, and I do NOT need you clearing the way for me. Because we can do that ourselves now.

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So where am I?  Still seeing this going on. Not afraid of it anymore. I have it labeled. I have weapons. Wanting my daughters to know they don’t have to put up with it. It’s just like bullying and there should be #NoMore tolerance for it. Even after all of the fall out of the last four months, people think they can still get away with it.

Where does it stop?

You stop attracting certain types of people,

when you heal the parts that once needed them.

Other online Resources:

The Startling Truth about Sexual Coercion

Consent is not automatic.

from Ashley T. Drye @atdrye

https://goodmenproject.com/sex-relationships/the-startling-truth-about-sexual-coercion-babb/

Someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs can not give consent for sex. That means nights of drunken sex, were all nonconsensual.

“I’m not sure”… “Maybe later”… “I guess a little bit”… These are all words that breathe non-consent. Unless there is an ENTHUSIASTIC yes then it is sexual coercion.

Being blackmailed, threatened, or physically forced to have sex is non-consensual and rape.

 

Let’s Talk About Sexual Coercion

Yes, it’s actually a thing.

from Alexandra Haas @AlexandraGHaas

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/talk-sexual-coercion

Sexual coercion itself is an act of dominance and power.

Not all of sexually coerced (or sexual assaulted) peoples’ experiences are violent, but it can be just as traumatic. Many survivors don’t know they’ve been sexually coerced until long after the assault happened, especially when it isn’t violent, and coming to terms with the fact that it’s happened to you can be an agonizing experience.

 

Victims of Sexual Coercion are Often Blind to the Crime

from Wendy Macdowall

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/26/victims-sexual-coercion-blind-to-crime

“The underlying reasons for a culture normalising coercion to the extent that its victims sometimes fail to see it are multiple and complex. They are rooted in unequal gender norms and power dynamics. Changing these will mean changing the way our society thinks about and portrays sexual interaction, whether in popular culture or our own relationships.”

Also:

http://www.thehotline.org/

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

https://www.rainn.org/

As the leading authority on sexual violence, RAINN is comprised of experts in victim services, education and communications, public policy, and technology.

 

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Why Didn’t She Say Something?

{This Ain’t No Bandwagon Part III}

A few weeks ago, I decided I needed to go all in with #MeToo. Not necessarily for me. I’ll get nothing out of this except maybe a feeling of catharsis. But … my daughters might need to understand why I feel so strongly about it.

Did you miss me? The holidays struck, I fell and buggered up my wrist, had to go out of town a time or two for work, and doctored pneumonia and bronchitis. At last, I’m resurfacing. Happy New Year!

Greeneville

And now: The News

When the Harvey Weinstein thing broke – really broke and wasn’t just covered over again – my husband said: That man is a pig.

I thought to myself: You say that like he’s atypical. As though he’s the exception. “Harvey Weinstein” has been the symbolic casting couch archetype for half a century.

He was one of the most powerful men in the Hollywood scene. If you wanted to be in movies, if you wanted to be a star, he could make it happen.

Weinstein

Of course he thought he could get a little extra something something on the side.

Here’s what I’m having trouble understanding: What is it about these men (or people in power, but you have to admit that it seems to mostly be men in “positions of power”) that they feel compelled to somehow exercise their dominance? Do they know they can’t get laid legitimately, so they have to utilize whatever leverage they think they have?

And then there are people like me who let them. Who, at that point in their lives, honestly do not know how to not let them.

Hell, my first job at The Burger Chef had the shift manager assigning me my uniform, and telling me I had to french kiss him before he could give it to me. I was seventeen! A fast food shift manager!

I had not even found anyone I enjoyed kissing – much less kissing a perfect stranger for fun and profit. Was there a way to talk myself out of this? We were alone in a closet and it was before hours. Even if there had been other people around, no one could’ve seen us. I thought I had to kiss him. One kiss, no biggie, right?

I thought I’d messed up somewhere in the application process. I wouldn’t make that mistake again. I could fix this. Whatever it was. I’d figure it out between college and my next job.

Once college graduation was behind me, I felt the pressure to get a job and be on my own. A friend asked if I wanted to move in with her and share rent. I said sure. My parents had just gone through a messy divorce, I didn’t really want to stay with either of them, but I was still in town and had that safety net. I worked at a radio station on weekends so sharing rent and groceries would be no problem on minimum wage, right?

Nope. After a couple of months, I’d gone through all of my paychecks and all of my savings, and had to make hard decisions like was I going to pay my half of the rent, or help pay for groceries, or live off GrapeNuts™ again like I had in the dorm.

Rent usually won out. But I liked eating, too. It forced me to take another part-time job through the week filing at the courthouse. Then the radio station made me an offer. Would I be the weekend news anchor and the fill-in reporter for nightly meetings?

Of course I would.

I had a world to change!

Once I got noticed for my amazing news and editorial skills on an AM Radio station in middle Appalachia, I’d move on to television and then before long it’d be NBC.

And if I’d had a mentor in the field, instead of an unprincipled, immoral, depraved, lying, two-faced hypocrite … Who knows?

You’d describe him is short, dumpy, mild. Inoffensive. Harmless. His father-in-law was a preacher. He had three little girls under the age of five. He didn’t even go by his real name but an innocuous nickname which added to his modesty and wholesomeness. I was fresh and shiny from my charmed college life and my bright future of dreams. I was irrepressible. What could he do besides help me on my way to new, lofty heights?

First, he would come in with his eldest daughter and leave her in the studio for me to look after while he puttered away in his office. Despite the fact that it was my shift, and I was on the air.

Even then I knew it was insulting. I just didn’t have a word for it.

She didn’t even like me.

He called me “babydoll.” His babydoll. Like it was an accusation: Why do you have to be such a babydoll?

Somehow, it became my fault.

Him:     There’s three meetings this week. They’re yours if you want them. I know you could use the money.

Me:    All right! Where at?

Him:     First things first, babydoll. One story, one breast. Two stories, both. And for all three, I get to touch them.

I laughed. I thought he must be joking. This was a professional broadcaster, known in news and sports over much of the state; news director for the town I lived in. I was starry-eyed from my sparkly college career. Who did he think he was?

So my paycheck that month did not allow me to buy groceries. I went to Mom’s and ate chicken sandwiches.

Well, hell. In my naiveté, I thought maybe if I just showed my breasts (which were nothing to ogle, I assure you, as I was still a pre-babies A cup) then he would laugh, and I would laugh, and we’d go about our lives like the professionals we were.

Pretty soon, breasts just weren’t enough.

The height of my disgust came when he started buzzing me to come and see him in his office. (Yes, this was back when offices had legit buzzers.) And it was still on the weekend so there wasn’t anyone else in the studios. I’d put on an extra long song so I could get my week’s assignments, or fix edits before the next news break, to find him buck naked. And he’d hand me a bottle of lotion.

I thought I would vomit then and there.

And it kept happening.

No one will believe me.

That’s what kept me up at nights. I was gullible and unchallenged and I couldn’t think of one person I could go to, who would believe a single charge I made against this warped and pudgy douchebag.

And he knew it.

I despised the feeling of being utterly trapped.

My “self” hadn’t grown much, buried beneath the College Imposter. Still an awkward, insecure, self-doubting, uncertain girl who’d led some sort of charmed college existence. Seriously. I was seriously lucky.

This #MeToo “tweet” says it all:

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He was the first person I remember hating.

There was never anything that would be considered assault. There was coercion, intimidation, bullying, harassment. He was positively brilliant at getting in my head. It went without saying but he knew that I knew that he knew he was untouchable.

I played through scenarios in my mind:

I’d go to the station manager. And I’d get fired. Couldn’t have some fresh-faced intern casting shade on his respectable radio station and the upstanding renowned and well-liked news director. Or worse, I’d get called in with the news director so we could work out this “misunderstanding” like the professionals we were.

I’d go to the police. Surely this was illegal, somehow. No, now I was an adult. He would plead consensual.

My mother? She was up to her neck in her own neuroses. My dad? Brother? Possibly. But I was more afraid the jerk would end up missing or dead and they’d be indicted.

My friends? I risked it and a couple believed me. Enough that when they could, they would come to spend time at the station with me when I had to work, so I wouldn’t get harassed when he came in. Which was every weekend.

Until he told the station manager that I wasn’t taking my on-air position seriously because when he would “happen by” the station on weekends, he would find my friends there, too. I was told I couldn’t have anyone else with me during my shifts.

I didn’t tell my friends at the radio station. They were all his friends.

Nobody had ever come on to me. I had no idea how to handle it. Obviously!

I didn’t tell my roommate. I was afraid she’d think I was being conceited; vain; bragging. Bragging! That this dumpy, twisted asswipe was coming on to me!

What if I had? What if I had said something to somebody?

My friend said to me more than once: You could own that little one-horse station.

But that was only feasible if anyone believed me. And that wasn’t going to happen. Not then. Not there. Not with him. He was very, very good in his duplicity. Besides, the station was tainted now. I didn’t want it.

I loved my job. Loved it. Loved getting on the air, loved cutting commercials, loved working with the other on-air guys, loved being recognized for news stories. No, I wasn’t making a good living at it, but I was getting by with the courthouse filing option.

But apparently someone was noticing. Though I had no idea who or why or what to do with it. I was offered a fast-track to weekday noon news anchor. That was huge. It was. Second only to being the director of something.

I would’ve been fabulous.

I just couldn’t stand the thought of working with him on a daily basis. He would’ve been my boss daily. Not just weekends. It’s depressing to recall I had no way of knowing how I should have risen to the occasion; made the opportunity; turned all of this around. This was way before the internet exploded, and I only had a sheltered farm life and a charmed college career to call on for no help whatsoever.

I compromised myself and my hopes and dreams. Again.

And again.

And again.

I convinced myself that I needed a “real job” (my dad’s words), one that had weekends off, I could pay rent and buy groceries in the same month, promotions weren’t dependent on the rate of minimum wage or the perkiness of my breasts.

That was the American dream, right? That was really out there somewhere, right?

I told the station manager I’d think about the offer he was making. It was a good one, honestly. I think I could’ve learned to love it. But I settled. Obviously I’d – somehow, somewhere, once again – made a serious error in judgement early in this broadcasting career that brought on his type of debauchery. I wouldn’t do that again. I could fix this. So I interviewed at television stations in the larger towns nearby. I sent applications all over the place. For everything.

I was offered a job at a television station in Knoxville.

I was offered a job with the government.

The Federal Government!

No one could touch me!

They wouldn’t dare.

Right?

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{ Next week: “Sexual Harassment: A Study in 25 years” }