First of all, because you’ve been in our lives forever and you are the mother of our grandchildren, my husband and I will always love you.
But girl, you need to get a grip.
So, it didn’t work out with you and our son. I’m sorry. I wish you two could go on forever and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, that’s not how it worked. You’re hurt and angry and bitter and I get it. I’ve been in your shoes. Luckily, I was in your shoes before Facebook. I had plenty of people see me go through the process, but it wasn’t the whole freaking world.
That said, let me tell you how you’re coming across. It’s been over a year and you’re still posting things from Pinterest about how men need to treat women and how to let go of that one person that hurt you.
It’s time to stop worrying about what he did or didn’t do and accept that it’s over and move on.
But that’s not really what this letter is about.
That was my recommendation as one who has been there.
What this letter is really about is the rampage you’ve been on lately about your ex’s new lady. See, here’s the deal. You keep talking about karma and you can’t wait until the karma bus hits her.
Sweetie, you need to look both freaking ways before you cross the street because karma truly is “you get back what you give out.”
Yes, he cheated on you. But it wasn’t with this current girlfriend. It was with someone else. This one has done nothing to you except show you that your relationship with him wasn’t the dream you thought it was.
You went all psycho on Facebook about her taking pictures with your daughters and posting them. But here’s the thing: would you rather have him with a woman who loves and adores your daughters or someone who doesn’t care about them? You are doing everything to make her job with them miserable.
Let me tell you. Being a step-parent or the significant other to someone with kids is HARD. You’ve watched me struggle with it for a decade. When your partner’s ex is treating you like crap for it, it becomes almost impossible.
Here’s the thing with karma. I hope you don’t start dating a man with kids. Because the karma bus could hit you like a ton of bricks. The way you’re treating your ex’s new lady is the way you could be treated later.
You might want to think about that.
Oh, and you may want to look at your friends that have been encouraging your behavior.
Where do I start, The Band?
I’m a middle-aged woman working in a man’s world – always thought I could laugh at their jokes and play along.. One man in particular assumed my lack of offense was a “come on.”
It was not.
Let’s start at the beginning.
I rejoined my company, and at first, I shadowed my colleagues to refresh my knowledge. M was one of these colleagues.
We got along well and I enjoyed attending events with him. At the end of October, M and I attended an event together. It was an early morning start so he stayed overnight in a hotel.
I invited him to dinner with my husband, my son, and I. It was a friendly gesture. We enjoyed a few glasses of with dinner and afterward, my husband and I walked M back to his hotel.
When we returned home, there was a text message. My husband said, “Oh you have a text from M!” I assumed he was thanking us for dinner so I asked my husband what it said. He read the text to me:
“Fancy a f*ck?”
The following day, I told M my husband had read his text to me. He was mortified but I assured him we’d laughed it off, blamed it on the wine. M’s response was “Well. Do you?” I told him no and explained that I was very happily married.
This didn’t stop M from flirting.
I’m not completely innocent, I’m also guilty of flirting. I had a wicked sense of humour and an outgoing bubbly personality. This could be misconstrued, however I made it entirely clear to M that I was not interested.
I explained that I’d been with my husband since we were teenagers and that I’d never cheated on him. M stated that he didn’t want me to leave my husband, he just wanted to have sex with me.
I explained I don’t do casual sex and never wanted to be anyone’s “bit on the side.” He stated that he loved his wife but he enjoyed sex with other women.
Again, I told him I didn’t share his methods and wasn’t interested.
I should have distanced myself from M. I now deeply regret not doing that.
Perhaps I’d been naive, but I believed we could talk openly and be friends without a physical relationship. We got along well and had a great rapport. I thought I could handle this.
His flirting became more sexually explicit which I took as banter. He began texting me after events telling me how sexy I looked. I enjoyed the attention and the compliments and did not discourage him.
I was always clear that I would not cheat on my husband.
His text messages became more sexually explicit as he sent me messages about what he’d like to do to me, what he’d like me to wear, and what positions he’d have me in.
I told him it was not going to happen and he had no respect for me. I asked him how he’d feel if someone was sending messages like that to his wife. He apologized.
A short time later, started it again.
Around about this time, someone told me that M had had an affair with another coworker, E. I asked M about it. He said that she’d chased him, and what had happened between them.
E and I were friends on Facebok and we had a late night chat. She was tormenting me about my friendship with M and I explained that it was only friendship. I told her, he’d sent very inappropriate texts. She confessed that he had been sending her these too. We discovered the content of these messages were nearly identical.
She told me that he’d been doing this for 14 years. He’d pressed himself against her in the office and suggested he pop by her house when she was alone. He had stroked my legs under the table at events and told me he had a fetish for nylon on skin.
It became clear that M was a sexual predator and he’d been grooming me. I confronted him and he denied it, saying E had “lead him on.” I knew that one day he’d try blaming me too, so I saved E’s conversation. M is very charming and convincing. He started to behave better around me – and again, I thought we could be friends. I’d hoped we’d moved on.
What followed was a really bad period in my personal life. My father had terminal cancer. I held one of my daughters as she gave birth to a dead baby. Someone lodged a complaint at work claiming I’d been acting fraudulently.
Although management dismissed it as nonsense, I felt my reputation had been tarnished. I struggled feeling I was being judged. I knew I’d done nothing wrong and invited a full investigation. The matter was closed.
My father died and family issues meant that I couldn’t attend his funeral. I thought I could handle it but the pressure; I was being judged for not attending my father’s funeral.
M had remained a friend and I spoke with him about some of these issues. He told me his marriage was going through a bad patch and that he no longer loved his wife. Around this time, he started to tell me that he had fallen in love with me. I was emotionally fragile and wasn’t sure how to handle it.
He blew hot and cold – one minute he was telling me he loved me while the next, he ignored me while he sorted things out with his wife. I still refused to sleep with him as I maintained that I loved my husband and would not cheat.
I had developed feelings for him but there was no sexual attraction. I didn’t trust him. I knew he was a womanizer who had no respect for women.
On a few occasions when we were on the phone, it became clear that he was masturbating. I’d put the phone down when that happened. He was always sorry afterwards (especially when his wife caught him).
I went to meet him at his hotel one morning for an event. We were going to travel together, and I was early so he invited me to have a coffee. I felt I could handle the situation. As I was drinking my coffee, he went to the toilet and came out exposing himself.
I was mortified.
Immediately, I stood up to leave.
He asked me to touch it.
I told him he was out of order, he buttoned up, and we left. He said he was sorry; it wouldn’t happen again. I feel incredibly stupid now reading this, but I really believed we could be friends. He sent me a photo of his penis to our private email accounts, I didn’t report it at work.
At the beginning of April, his wife contacted the hotel where we’d both stayed on a business trip. She suspected that I’d spent the night with her husband. Of course I hadn’t – I spent it with a number of colleagues – including her husband – at dinner together.
Afterward, he came to my room with a bottle of wine – I felt safe. He sexually coerced me and had sex with me.
I did not stop him. I did not say no. He left immediately afterwards.
I felt dirty and confused. He had worn me down. I didn’t want to have sex with him but I hadn’t stopped him. I sat in the bath and sobbed. Then I showered. Then bathed again.
I just couldn’t feel clean.
The sex was unplanned and unprotected. I felt contaminated. I felt raped but I thought I couldn’t have been as I didn’t say no.
I felt nothing as he was doing it. It was like someone flipped a switch and turned me off. I remember feeling like I was standing at the bottom of the bed watching it happen to someone else. Like watching the TV with the sound off.
I was mortified that I’d cheated on my husband. I was so ashamed. I decided no one would ever know. I pretended nothing had happened. I thought I could go back to normal and forget it.
A few days later, I complained about M’s wife phoning the hotel. I felt I was being stalked and management queried why she was suspicious.
At this time, his line manager queried M’s mobile phone usage. He was my friend so I lied and said he’d never been inappropriate. I didn’t want anyone to know what’d happened and I didn’t want him lose his job.
I felt partially to blame for not stopping contact with him.
As soon as I’d given M a clean slate, he changed completely. He was doing his best to convince his wife that he’d done nothing wrong; he blamed me for leading him on and stalking him.
Around this time she started checking my – and my husband’s – Facebook page. M told me she was obsessed; that was going to contact my husband to tell him I’d had an affair with M.
She wouldn’t let it drop. I emailed her and asked her to stop cyberstalking me – I explained I wasn’t interested in her husband and if she wanted to talk to me, just call or email.
M enjoyed all the attention and wound me up about it. I reacted badly and struck out at him for his behavior. He’d told me he was my best friend; that he loved me.
Now, he treated me like a bunny boiler.
At home, my evening relaxing glass of wine became a bottle. It helped me forget. I became angry and argumentative. My husband desperately wanted to know what was wrong. I told him nothing yet became increasingly distant.
I drank to get to sleep but woke up three hours later when the wine wore off. I’d spent the rest of the night watching the clock.
For eight long weeks.
I argued with M, and told him I was disgusted at what he had done to me. He laughed at me and put his hand between my legs. I punched him in the face.
He was not going to touch me again.
Two months after the sex, I suffered a serious house fire. I broke down. I had nothing left to fight with. I told my husband what had happened. He was devastated, angry. I couldn’t cope and went to the doctor.
M’s line manager asked him not to contact me. I was off with stress and they knew he’d been sexually harassing me at work. We’d been chatting one day, and the next?
I asked him what the problem was. He ignored me. I was so, so stressed and couldn’t understand it! He’d groomed me for so long that I depended on his friendship. I was frustrated, humiliated, used, and lied to.
I emailed M and told him this. I’d lied to protect him and had (stupidly) thought we were still friends. He took my correspondence and using it to make me look like a stalker. He took a picture of his black eye and when he was told not to contact me, he reported me to management for assault and said I’d been harassing his wife and family.
To defend myself, I raised a grievance for sexual harassment. The case was heard and they believed him – we’d been having an affair for two years. He said I’d been blackmailing him to keep seeing me. I’d harassed him and his family after he ended the affair.
I was distraught.
After the house fire, I contacted rape crisis for counselling. I found the strength to ask my doctor for STI testing. Thankfully it was clear. I called the police and reported M for the sexually explicit images he’d been emailing me. As I was so distraught, they questioned me for ten hours solid and wrote a 35 page statement for a rape inquiry.
They took six weeks to get around to questioning M.
He told them we’d been having an affair and produced my emails. They charged him with nothing and spoke to me like I’d been wasting police time.
Work completed their investigation and found M was in the clear, but I’d face disciplinary action for assaulting and harassing a member of staff. They concluded that I was trying to ruin his reputation.
Talk about a no win situation.
I had a severe meltdown and called the Samaritans – I was suicidal.
Since, I’ve had a few relapses and have taken sleeping tablets together with wine. My husband is scared to leave me alone.
My rape counselor says I am suffering from PTSD. I have lost 8 kilos and now weigh less than 55 kilos. My guts are constantly on fire. I cry at the drop of a hat. I haven’t worn a skirt for 6 months as I feel vulnerable.
I have forgotten what normal feels like and have aged about 20 years.
My husband is supportive, but he’s also a wreck. M stole our exclusiveness. I appealed the work decision a month ago and have a union rep supporting me. My employer has not yet given me a date for my appeal. M is back at work like he’s done nothing wrong. What M did to me was horrendous and I’m being punished for it.
I have lost my faith in Justice.
I begged him to leave me alone and now I’m paying the price.
The first time I got a blog troll on my personal blog, I ate a celebratory cupcake and washed it down with a tall Diet Coke on the rocks. It was probably, in hindsight, a spammer (just like my first comments , which I think I framed somewhere were) but I didn’t care. I’d made it! Someone, somewhere hated me!
Then, I got someone who copied bits out of my blog posts. Actual bits of my posts removed and pasted onto hers, like it was no big deal. Someone else, a watchdog, alerted me. My daughter had just been born ill and I wasn’t about to deal with it right then. Talk about bigger fish to fry. I like to think I would have fist-pumped, though, and perhaps celebrated with a tasty bowl of edamame or a wee Uncrustables.
Later yet came the loon who created several blogs composed of entirely stolen posts filched neatly from other bloggers, myself included, who I did fight. Google claims they shut her down, but I don’t care to check because I don’t want to drive her traffic up. I still have, somewhere on my desktop, screenshots of all of your comments on her blog, just because they were so full of the awesome, by the way.
You don’t fuck with the Pranksters or The Band.
Since that first Internet Mole Person (troll), I’ve gotten a handful of others.
Generally, they make me laugh.
There are weeks when they do not.
Like anyone, I’m a person, and I have bad days, and bad weeks, and sometimes I say and do the wrong things. In fact, if I had to describe my blog, I’d say something like, “THIS is where I bow to the alter of my wrongness.” I don’t have a publicist or an adviser to tell me not to do something because, uh, why?
This week, I’ve gotten a couple of nasty-grams that hurt my feelers. I know bloggers are “supposed” to pretend like it doesn’t matter; like we don’t care, like it doesn’t hurt our feelers when people call us names or insult us, but it does. Of course it does.
Like it or not, this is my life.
Certainly, it’s my steaming pile of guts spilled here, my wrongness on display, and my inconsistencies on the table to be judged and if I don’t like it, I can absolutely pack up shop and go somewhere else. That’s the answer, right? To delete my blog in a stompy flourish? Go back to being Becky, In Real Life? That’s how to handle hurt feelers?
Not so much. At least, not for me.
Blogging, writing out your pain, and sharing it with the world, is an act of bravery. When you put yourself out there, especially waaay out there, you stand a very real chance to be very hurt or very disgusted by human nature. The farther you stick your neck out, the worse the inevitable hurt* may be.
What I think is worse than any troll are the people who get you entirely wrong. Because you’re left standing there stuttering, “but, but, BUT, that’s not what I meant AT ALL.”
These are the sort that make me sort of question myself in a way that I seldom do (perhaps I should): Did I say it wrong? WAS I wrong?
And most importantly: why the hell do I do this at all? I see that typed out here, on my screen and it looks like I’m being all 15-years old and dramatical feet-stamp *woe is me, OH NOES* and I’m (for once) not.
I mean that genuinely: why do I do this? Why do ANY of us bother?
It’s certainly not for the billions of dollars in my bank account that still haven’t been deposited, nor is it for the notoriety and free swag, or to be able to tell someone that “I blog, and it’s really, really cool.” Because I swear, if I told someone that, they’d be all, “um, huh? Did you just insult me?”
No. It’s not for that.
It’s because it all matters. Every word I write matters. To me. To (maybe) you. These words are what define me, what make up my life, and what bring me joy. Whether or not someone else finds them and finds joy in them too is inconsequential because it brings me joy. I write because I love to. I write because that is what I do. I write because it matters. Every comment I make, every life I touch, it matters.
That is why The Band exists.
It’s why we pay for servers to handle our traffic and keep your stories edited and fresh. It’s why we’re always looking for new volunteers. It’s why we use our social media accounts to share your stories. It’s why we cry with you, we laugh with you, and we dust you off, and get you to your feet to fight another day. It’s what we do. For you and for every life you touch by the words you write. Why our volunteers help keep the lights on and guide you to us. We all know the truth of what it is that we do here: it all matters.
Everything we, what you, do. We know, above all else, this to be true:
It all matters.
Everything you do. Every single thing.
It all matters.
*I’d like to tell you guys a secret. We do moderate comments because you never do know if/when an Internet Mole Person may scurry up to shit on things. It’s our way of protecting you and every other person who uses the site from the ugly bits. We moderate so that you can share your ugly bits without fear.
With the exception of a Jehovah’s Witness trying to convert The Band into their, uh, program? Church? Erms, I don’t know much about it. But with that exception, I have seen maybe 4 comments deleted and those were people trying to raise money or promote their own blog. You just don’t get any hate. Way to be awesome, The Band.
I was in the third grade when I was given my first labels.
I hear it now, as I did six years ago.
Still I hear it ringing through my ears, wondering if it is the truth.
Years later I think to myself, do they know how hurtful those words are? Do they know I still think of it? Do they know that every time I look in the mirror, those names, those labels comes to mind, along with many others.
If they do, if they did, would they still have chosen to say that, or would they go back and erase it?
Fast forward three years.
Just starting middle school, a new school, a new beginning, a new life. Right?
With a new school, comes a new bully, new names.
“Bitch.” “Slut.” “Ugly.” “Poodle head.”
The names go on.
And the first time in my life, I feel helpless.
I feel trapped.
Because now, not only were they attacking verbally, but now they attacked through social media.
Helplessly, I admit defeat, and call for help.
Therapy for one year.
I stop going.
No more bullies …for now.
One year later.
Half-way through the terrible mix.
Not an adult, but not a kid.
You’re changing in different ways.
Discovering new things about yourself.
Life is great …until they come again.
A new army of bullies ready to take down their first victim.
“Idiot.” “Fat.” “No good.” “Dirty whore.” “Lame.” “Loser.”
Those were the nice ones.
One more year…
Once again, a new year, a new bully
This time it’s worse.
“Thunder Thighs” is the only thing I was called.
One name, twice the pain.
I pull out my razor, to help relieve the mental tension.
Trying to replace mental pain with physical pain.
It works …for a little while.
One year later.
I am now clean.
Going through therapy.
Recently diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety,
This puts a toll on my family.
I try and push through it, as I’ve done for years.
Apparently, I’m a great actress,
Fooling everyone around me that I am happy.
But now, I no longer have to pretend…
I am getting help.
Even though it hurts sometimes…
And those awful memories flood back.
I have self control…
I am seven months clean.
Still with urges, I manage to throw away my razor, and speak up.
With help from my family and friends, I am on the road to recovery.
Because after all, my disorder doesn’t define me.
I’m many things: a daughter, friend, a pet lover and a 4.0 student. I swim, volunteer, love the beach and enjoy music. I’m also a victim of a growing epidemic among teens and young adults entering the workplace: sexual harassment.
On Valentine’s Day 2007, I attended my first corporate event as a volunteer for a major media corporation. I dressed professionally in a long-sleeved pants suit and arrived early to Houston’s baseball stadium. Plastered on my face was the biggest, most secure smile I could find, in spite of the butterflies in my stomach.
This corporate event was a huge deal and I played a special role in it. Around sunrise, the radio station’s videographer arrived and began setting up his equipment. He spotted me and walked over to extend a handshake. Eager to make a good impression, I introduced myself.
“Hi, I’m Jill. I’m the poet,” I said, confidently.
“Hi, I’m Howard. I’m on-air each weekend and do video as a side-gig.”
“I know. I’ve heard you.”
“Well, I work at another station, too.”
Having varied musical tastes, I said I knew – I’d heard him there, too
When the brief, friendly banter had finished, we each continued our business, the discussion far from my mind… Until I arrived home that afternoon and discovered that within an hour of meeting me, he’d found my website and sent a highly personal email. It discussed his dating history, his taste in women, that he thought I was in my forties because “forty-something women are the hottest around;” because I was “hot.”
I wondered how he’d found my information, I told my instincts to “hush” – I was certainly overreacting. After all, the media must’ve given him my information. Pushing concern aside, I believed I needed to keep the peace for my new position and sent a simple, friendly reply.
The conversation continued as he told me he had a daughter my age and found my information through an internet search. The third day, he asked to purchase signed copies of books I’d written. I gave him my home address – easy as that.
The subtle signs of trouble were there from the beginning. The wishy-washy words to keep my feelings off-balance. On my birthday he said, “The world is a better place because you’re in it.” Not two hours later, he said, “You’d look good in black lace … and I’m not talking shirts.”
It took nearly five years for me for me to find the courage to accept that the harassment was serious and not the jokes I’d thought the man was making.
“Nice to meet you” slowly became “You’d look great in an adult film” and “The world is a better place because you’re in it” became a blend of comments like “My girlfriend is an iceberg in the bedroom,” which played to my empathetic side. Feeling “sorry” for his “plight” he claimed would “improve” if he could buy me lingerie and sex toys.
I never thought he was serious, I’d thought he was joking. I know now to trust my gut; this kind of behavior is not normal for the workplace.
By the time a box of lingerie he purchased for me was delivered to my home and I pursued action against him in 2012, I’d endured a lengthy history of requests for dates, pressure to pose for pictures and/or provocative video, cyber-stalking, emotional abuse, and calls and texts at all hours. The toll on my life was apparent – sleepless nights, stomach upset, and stress. I lived in constant fear of what the next step in his obsession might be.
My innocent response happens far too often among teens and young adults unprepared for workplace sexual harassment. Today’s teens and young adults are not alone in dealing with job-related harassment. According to Adolescents at Work: Gender Issues and Sexual Harassment, thirty-five percent (35%) of high school students reported they experienced sexual harassment in their part-time work. Of the 35% who were sexually harassed, 63% were girls and 37% were boys. In 19% of cases, perpetrators were supervisors, and 61% of the time harassment came from coworkers.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between flirting and harassment, but it’s never okay for an adult to flirt with a child. It’s not okay for someone in a position of power to flirt with or suggest improper behavior. Such behavior in the workplace is illegal and companies must have guidelines in place outlining zero tolerance for sexual harassment.
If you are going through something like what I experienced, I want you to know that this is not your fault. Nothing you did or didn’t do caused this to happen. This did not happen because of anything you said, your choice of friends, your appearance, or your personality. Anyone who harasses another is a bully. Bullies are cowards that pick on the strong and innocent, simply the person is there. No more, no less. You are not guilty of anything, even if you initially went along with the harassment. The blame is with the harasser; you are a survivor. You can heal.
You deserve respect.
From the minute that you feel awkward about a work-situation, tell someone you trust and begin documenting every comment, action, or event that’s left you feeling uncomfortable. If you’ve received e-mails, save screenshots. If you save the e-mails, don’t alter them in any way. If someone says that they don’t think what you’re going through is that bad,” remember – it’s not their place to judge. You own your truth. You own your boundaries. Only you know what you will or will not accept.
While someone else may tolerate behavior that bothers you, it’s your life and your decision. You’re allowed to end uncomfortable situations; no job is worth trauma, torment, or the health toll enduring daily abuse can cause, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. You cannot always leave your job, but you can stop the cycle of harassment. The harasser wants your silence; don’t give them the satisfaction.
Some may believe you’re weak for choosing to address sexual harassment and strive for change, this is not true. You are not weak; you are courageous and brave, trying to make the world a better place for others; that is an admirable aspiration for anyone.
As the result of my journey, I reached out to a therapist to help me understand what had happened. My therapist put the harassment this way: “The harasser is an annoying gnat you can flick away until the pest becomes smaller and smaller on your horizon. By standing up, speaking out, and refusing to accept abuse – you are a big flyswatter with the power and will to end the cycle of harassment.”
If your boss, co-worker, or friend demands your undivided attention, calls you five or ten times per day, follows your every move on and offline, or starts mimicking your style or words, there could be a deeper problem.
Stand your ground; know your boundaries; always listen to your inner voice. Respect, trust yourself and you will get through this. I told my story and put the spotlight on my harasser; you have the power within you to do the same.
Even on the darkest day in your fight against sexual harassment, always remember you’re worth so much more than workplace abuse. You will come through the experience with greater awareness and more compassion for others. You have a bright future ahead of you and you will survive this.
I believe in you!