Back in 1999, I was an 18-year-old working for a tech support company contracted to the government. We were contracted for 24/7 support, so on holidays someone had to be in the office to operate the systems and help users who might be there.
On Thanksgiving, I arrived for work and went through the metal detector as usual, then took the elevator down to our offices in the basement. Everything was fine for a few hours — I surfed the web, chatted with friends, and generally just relaxed because nobody was there. In the early afternoon, the door suddenly opened. We had swipe cards to get in, so I assumed it was a co-worker and got up to say hello. To my surprise, it was the security guard from upstairs, a big tough guy. I asked if anything was wrong, and he came around my desk and tried to fondle my breasts. Remember, I was 18 years old. I was also newly out as lesbian, newly in a relationship (which I am still in), and I was all alone in the basement of an office building. I remember everything else crystal clear, so it surprises me that I don’t remember what I did in response.
Somehow, I got him to leave, but I spent the rest of Thanksgiving Day — and the rest of the weekend too — in absolute terror that he would come back. I never reported him, and I never told anyone but my partner and my family (when I saw them for belated Thanksgiving the next day). I wish I had said something. Men who are put into positions of power, especially positions that permit or require them to carry weapons, are far too often under the impression that they can do whatever they want with that power. They can’t. Being trusted with power doesn’t make it okay to abuse it.
To this day, over 10 years later, and about to turn 30 next month, I am still afraid when I am alone in an elevator or other space with a man. If it’s more than one guy, I usually figure that at least one of them WON’T be dangerous, and will help me if something happens, or that a dangerous guy won’t pull anything in front of someone else. But anytime I am alone with a guy, and can’t escape, I am still scared. I tell myself it’s irrational fear, but it still enters my brain. I will never forget that security guard.
Submitted by MMP on 12/1/2010
Location: 810 7th St NW
Time of Harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)
Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.