I have a couple of things to say concerning this “Me too” movement of women coming out of their closets to claim sexual harassment and/or rape – many of whom I feel could probably have “nipped things in the bud” before they ever got out of hand. There are, after all, two sides to every story.
I was approached plenty of times during my 22-year Army career, and I always simply handled them quietly and swiftly with a firm, “NO!” No playing cute nor coy; no teasing nor suggesting I “might” oblige them. Just, “NO!” My entire childhood was fraught with sexual abuse, and I wasn’t about to be “used” or bullied around by anybody as an adult.
Two sexual harassment incidents stand out in my mind – one of which changed my entire life … for the better!
In 1975, in the days before I was to appear before the Staff Sergeant E-6 board, one of the men who was to sit on the board to judge my promotion readiness, approached me on the sidewalk to let me know that if I were to have sex with him, he could “ensure my promotion.” Yeah ... WRONG thing to say to me! There was NO way I was ever going to “sleep my way to the top!”
Still, I was taken aback and embarrassed – and being young and a little naïve, I didn’t know exactly how to respond. So, I finally managed a stiff smile and said, “You can really do that? Influence the rest of the members to agree that I should be promoted?” He nodded enthusiastically as he showed me all his pearly whites as I stood there, dumbfounded and wishing I could just sink into the ground.
Finally, I shook my head and said, “I don’t think so. I’d rather do things the old fashioned way and EARN my promotions.” His face fell and grew beet read. “You really ought to think about it, Carmen,” said lowly. “Seriously think about it….”
And so, yeah, I thought about it … all the way to my boss’ office where I spilled the beans on the guy. He was promptly removed from the promotion board.
The next incident was in 1978 when I was working as NCO-In-Charge of the Directorate of Engineering and Housing in Stuttgart, Germany. My boss was a Colonel who loved to tell dirty jokes, make sexual innuendos and couldn’t keep his hands off the women who worked for him. Well, I tried my best to deal with it, but he pretty much ignored my searing glances and sour faces.
So, I put up with approximately six months of that nonsense when, one day I decided enough was enough, and I grabbed my purse, hat and personal effects and stomped out of the office, hurling a few choice words over my shoulder as I went. I wasn’t just angry with the Colonel; I was mad at myself for having put up with it for so long. The thing is, the reason I put up with it for so longer was BECAUSE I also knew that it would be his word against mine, and I probably would lose the battle.
But now, I was angry!
Trembling with rage, I immediately headed for the Command Sergeant Major’s office, where I faced an uncertain future. Anyone who ever “told off” an officer had better have a great reason for doing so, or be prepared to be courts-martialed (which meant I could be demoted or even kicked out of the Army). I didn’t care. I was DONE with the nonsense and ready to face whatever lay ahead!
So, sweating bullets, I stood before the Command Sergeant Major (CSM) on legs that felt like rubber, trying to keep my voice from quaking as I explained what happened. Long story short: The CSM laughed at me because “everybody knows about that Colonel” – but they weren’t doing anything about him since he was getting ready to retire soon…
Well, cool that they “knew about him,” but I still wanted “something done” about him, anyway! How unfair to just let him keep getting away with it! Honestly, I could have taken this issue to higher echelons, but I knew the other women involved weren’t going to want to testify against him, and there was no way I could do this alone. So, I remained mum and hoped I could be reassigned, because I really, really did NOT want to be forced to go back to work for that jerk….
Okay, so, lo and behold, that was my lucky day because, it just so happened that the editor of the Army newspaper, The Stuttgart Citizen, had to return to the US on emergency leave, and the Command had just discovered that he wasn’t returning – which left a journalist slot open. Because the CSM knew of my writing skills and love for writing from some projects I had worked on for the Command, he told me to take over as the new editor, starting the next day.
“But, I’m not a journalist,” I responded hesitantly.
“You’ll learn,” he said dismissively. “Now get outta here and go, before I change my mind.”
WELL! I did learn and I LOVED it, and a year later, requested to change my military occupational specialty from administrative work to journalism. The Army sent me to school at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, and on to the Washington, D.C. area to become middle-manager of the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command Headquarters Public Affairs Office.
What was ironic about this, is that I had always wanted to be a writer, but my mentally-abusive mother had completely doused my passion when I was 14 years old after I had started writing a book. The things she said to me about it were downright degrading and embarrassing, and I simply stopped bothering at that point.
But, the bottom line was, what Satan had meant for evil was thwarted when YHWH turned the tables (using, of all things, a sexual harasser!), and restored what HE had planned for my life, in the first place – to learn and grow and ultimately become a soldier and writer for Him!
Returning to my opening thoughts on the “Me too” movement, what I was trying to illustrate is that, while there are certainly legitimate harassment claims because some men are just swines, women (especially those who belong to YHWH) should NEVER allow themselves to be denigrated! When I hear that a woman slept with some “big-wig” because she wanted to ensure that she could “get to the top” – well, I don’t have much respect for that. I don’t care WHAT her career field was, prostitution is prostitution, and I would think it would be hard to look in the mirror after allowing yourself to be used like that.
I can see where someone like Harvey Weinstein might have intimidated someone to have sex with him, but women DO have the CHOICE to say “NO!” They chose to let him have his way (some sleeping with him to assure their place in the movie industry!) and never said a word – until 35 years later! It makes no sense to me!
And I’m completely baffled that so many women crawled out of the woodwork to accuse Bill Cosby decades after the “incidents” – some of whom were willing to admit they went to his home and/or hotel room! What did they expect of private meeting in a hotel room with a big, handsome TV star? Polite conversations about politics and world events?
I’ve personally known women were “teases,” who dressed like street-walkers and then got mad when guys whistled or make sexual denigrating comments or propositioned them. Well, as I said earlier, there are two sides to every story – and if a woman doesn’t want to be sexually harassed or molested “on the job”; then she needs to do two things: (1) Dress and behave in a professional manner, and (2) when someone approaches her – no matter who they are – tell the swine “I don’t play that game, so don’t bother!”
If he’s your boss and threatens to fire you, tell him you won’t go down without a fight, because you plan on taking this as high as you possibly can to drag his name hrough the mud. If you ultimately end up having to find a new job somewhere else, so be it. But make sure EVERYONE knows why! Women don’t have to take it! They CAN fight back NOW – not wait 35 or 40 years to “come out of the closet” and whine.