When I was 18, the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I worked at the front desk of a manufacturing plant, and was the only woman on the site. One of my duties was to go into the production area and collect the time cards for …
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When I was 18, the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I worked at the front desk of a manufacturing plant, and was the only woman on the site. One of my duties was to go into the production area and collect the time cards for payroll processing.One day the superintendent of the plant – a married man – was waiting for me in the back. He pushed me against the wall, trapped me with his body against mine, and pressured me for sex. I got away and, from then on, only went for the time cards when he was off the site. He continued to stalk me, sometimes following me on my way home to hang around outside the post office while I dropped off the company’s mail.But I didn’t tell anyone.Some years later, while vice president of an advertising agency, one of my clients was a wealthy real estate developer. We were driving to one of his job sites when he took his right hand off the steering wheel and reached across the car to grab my breast. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I wondered what I could possibly have done to invite this crude advance.He was married, I was married. And yet I didn’t tell anyone. I was in a situation familiar to many women, especially in those days when it seemed more acceptable for men who believed they wielded power to take advantage of women. I didn’t want to risk offending a significant client of our agency, even though I was traumatized by these actions. He invited me to fly with him on his private jet to another of his properties, and when I declined, we lost the account.Having launched my business career in the '80s, I have been subjected to these and other kinds of harassment for more than 30 years, sometimes from the men who directly employed me. So it’s no surprise to me when stories such as those about Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes and – God help us – the Republican nominee for president have come to light.What does surprise me is that 1) people are shocked by these revelations, 2) people believe that such behavior is uncommon, and 3) people continue to blame and shame the victims.I know why women stay silent. I know why they endure the objectification, the humiliation, the fear. It’s because this type of discrimination and harassment doesn’t only happen at the exalted levels of celebrity. It happens to wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends and best friends in all walks of life. It’s because women are not believed or, worse, are believed but brushed aside as inconsequential.I read a comment in the New York Times the day the latest news broke about Donald Trump’s boasts of what is classified as sexual assault, and I paraphrase here: If you are female, you have had someone else grab a private part of your body without your consent. This is certainly true for me and most of my contemporaries. I think of the younger women in my life and can only fervently hope this is no longer true for them.And that’s why I’m telling my story now.What makes anyone believe they have the right, the permission, to take away my control of who touches my own flesh?I believe – I have to believe – that this happens less frequently, less systematically than in the past, due in large part to the women who have come forward, the women who support them, and the decent, compassionate men – and they are in the majority – who are appalled and outraged by what goes on.It’s unlikely there will be any kind of justice for the women in Trump’s lewd legacy, but there can be a victory for the women and girls of the United States – and the people who love them – in the defeat of Donald Trump. Vote for anyone other than the most unqualified person, on any level, ever to seek leadership of the (still) greatest country on the Earth.
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