I find myself yet again experiencing something all too familiar; and yet again instead of respecting my boundaries he has lashed out against them.
As a commoner I have experienced sexual harassment in various settings; like in school, on the street, and interpersonally. From personal experience it’s not just a one-off sexual comment that you failed to understand as a joke.
I sometimes think we are quick to judge it as a misinterpretation of intentions, and nothing more.
From personal experience it’s an escalation of behavior that starts off mildly, and can get scary. Sexual harassment the behavior can result in the perpetrator isolating the victim through various means, and causing real harm to them.
In one instance, it was not just sexual comments but serious manipulation.
The person was never a love interest or a date. At times they were a person of power over me (like a coach). I had a coach make sexual comments and gestures at me once while I was training. The attitude then was to see it as no big deal, and to only take action if they were proven guilty. If a teacher or a coach is calling you derogatory sexual names, or making sexual gestures as a way to belittle you in front of a male student they shouldn’t be in that position at all. Fullstop. They should perhaps try hip thrusting gestures in prison and see where it lands them.
He felt he was in a position of power, and despite serious complaints from students and coaches alike he was never held responsible, until people started talking about it. As a young adult there was no regulatory body to actually report the behavior to and the police didn’t think comments were a serious enough issue to investigate. Once his behavior was uncovered (and he was becoming increasingly impulsive), he fled the country.
He left behind a trail of twisted stories on how he used sexual coercion and alcohol, harassment, and isolation. I felt particularly isolated on this team, as he had pre-emptively kicked colleagues off the team who were friends of mine. He deliberately removed any outside influence on me, like friends, who might have shielded me from his behavior. He deliberately chose his victims and bystanders; the result was a largely female team (between the ages of 14-20) with a small group of teenage men (like 2 of them), the rest were young athletes under the age of 12. Anyone that was a threat to his ego was banned or discouraged from his practice.
He justified his behavior as just trying to get closer to me because he felt I was troubled and he wanted to “help.”
Recently I’ve encountered harassment on a more interpersonal level.
I had recently made friends with a dude. I offered him a few rides to Walmart, and lent him a roll of dollar coins (loonies) to do his laundry. He started off with a sexual comment about a skirt I wore when I was driving him, a few weeks ago. He told me I “should’ve drove in that skirt again,” and that, “guys like that sort of thing.” He sent this via text message out of the blue. I tried to think of it as a one off, and I made a comment that I don’t normally dress in a skirt, it’s not my thing.
I made a mental note not to engage or speak to him for a few days and just see what happens.
A little while back he mentioned that my next door neighbour was sexually inappropriate to women.
This particular neighbour tried to contact me by slipping a note under my door trying to be “friendly.” Prior to that, he had drunkenly yelled a few grotesque sexual comments whenever he heard me coming and going. I decided to mention him dropping me a note to this new acquaintance, since he seemed to think he was inappropriate as well. He promptly replied that I should never visit this neighbour and that he would be a detriment to my well-being.
He asked me if I thought he was a creep like the neighbour. I said he’s not as bad (at this point he wasn’t). He asked me if his recent comment upset me. I said it made me uncomfortable. He said he really didn’t mean it and he was just joking, but that he has been called a creep before by his sister-in-law, and wanted to know how he came across. He claimed he was just really clueless and harmless.
Why send a text like that knowing there is a good chance it won’t be well received?
I was willing to let it pass for the time being. I said he was just being a guy. I shouldn’t have said that because many guys have enough self awareness to know when something is making a woman uncomfortable. So many men make women uncomfortable and we are often willing to give it a pass because “they’re men” and worse yet “what did you expect.”
What he did next just kicked the cringe up another notch; it was like he felt he had a free pass to make another comment related to the first one.
It was another sexually teasing comment where he said, ” well fine I won’t let you have a bath at my place.”
I said I’m good I’ve got my own bathroom.
I was planning on taking a brief driving trip and was considering inviting him along. I began talking about the trip asking him if he wanted to come along, but I was quietly contemplating what to do if he continues creeping me out. I figured I could cancel beforehand if he makes me uncomfortable.
As predicted he continued with his sexual joking about me using his shower/bath.
I replied, No.
He again said, “I’m just joking.”
I don’t know if it was the comment or the fact he felt he had to follow it up with “I’m just joking” that made it worse.
I made a mental note about what to say next, and quickly as predicted he made another sexual comment.
I asked him to just stop.
I muted the conversation, decided to uninvite him and decided that he was a poor choice of friend. If he made me uncomfortable enough to not want him sitting next to me in my car then he wasn’t worth being my friend either.
I replied back with an ultimatum. Pay me back the money he owed me, (that he promised to pay me back), and stop talking to me. I called him out on his behavior and said,
“Your comments are not a joke to me.”
I decided to cease and desist. I decided not to communicate any further. We weren’t close friends, and I was just only beginning to know the guy and offered him a ride to Walmart on a few occasions.
I decided not to tell anyone at this point because I figured he must’ve had a clue that his behavior wasn’t welcome. I thought my best plan of action was to completely disengage, and say nothing, even if he doesn’t pay me back.
I began discovering he went on a smear campaign behind my back trying to insist I was lying about the money owed to him, and possibly about his behavior.
Saying no and calling him out on his behavior threatened him. This is how he expressed taking back control. He took back control not by apologizing but by portraying me in a terrible light and playing victim.
What’s more alarming is how fast that “friend” went on a smear campaign and shared this information with less than savvy characters in the building.
I decided to make a comment to a neighbour to see possibly how far he went on bad mouthing me. I started off the conversation with, “I got into a bit of a fight with _____.”
The neighbour chimed in that he heard all about it. He told me he said I was “lying about owing money. That it was only some small change.”
Sexual harassment is a power play. The words might seem like nothing at first, but the offender is aware that they are stepping out of line.
Through various experiences throughout the years I have heard people with abusive tendencies say these various things:
“I am just really thick, I don’t mean it.” (if you’re aware of it you’re not that dumb and you can change your behavior).
“She’s lying.” (meanwhile her version of events has some truthfully ugly details. What often ends up happening is he’s lying, but social status/ power enables him the privilege of taking no accountability).
“She’s crazy.” (Will try to make the target feel crazy for calling them out, gaslight them, try to portray them as mentally ill to others. I’ve heard some seriously stupid reasoning and “logic” behind this when they get accurately called out. )
“That never happened.” He lies about what he says to you and tries to gaslight you into believing it never happened.
Here is the other twisted factor; Even if there is a lot of legitimacy to what is said by the actual victim, if the perpetrator twists information enough then the victim will be disbelieved via this “reputation.”
If he had left me alone I doubt I would be writing this. He pre-emptively accused me of lying before I even told anyone. He was well aware of the impact of his words and actions.
The less than savvy people in the complex were the ones that tended to believe him.
This how mere comments and not being able to handle “a joke” can devolve into potentially more serious behavior.
He tried to disempower my saying no by character smears. He was so quick to do it that it made me wonder if he had done this sort of thing before.