Groped by a Security Guard

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)

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5 Responses

  1. Golden Silence

    What a punk! I bet he’s still out there abusing his privilege right now. He’ll be caught one day, I’m betting on it.

    I commend you for having the courage to speak about what happened to you. I know it’s gotta be tough. Don’t blame yourself for not saying anything right then and there—that was a scary experience for you. Also, it’s good that you spoke to family and other loved ones about it, because keeping it bottled up inside is harder than opening up about something that horrible.

    Stay strong, and know you have my support.

  2. cathy

    how awful, particularly to be made so afraid in your own workplace. it’s irrational, but real, and i hope it’s helped to share.

  3. JMH

    MMP, Thank you for sharing this story. Please know that you are not alone. When I was 16 I held my first job at a mom and pop diner in my home town. A friend of the manager, who was easily old enough to be my grandfather, always came in to help waitresses roll silverwear. We all appreciated his assistance until we learned the real reason he was there. The old man often touched the waitresses–who were teenagers–in inappropriate ways. He slapped a friend of mine on the buttocks with a serving tray and he pinched my buttocks after walking past me. I did confront him, but I was shaking in my boots. I also went home and told my father, who is a shop steward in his union. My father came into the establishment the very next day and confronted the manager. Needless to say, I was never touched again but many of my co-workers were–because they did not speak up. So many of my co-workers were so afraid they would get fired or hurt someone’s feelings that they didn’t say anything; they let the old man continue to harass them.

    The point is, it is so important for young women to know their rights and understand that situations like these are NOT acceptable. I believe, to this day, the old man targeted waitresses at that diner because they were young and ignorant about their rights. I think it was brave of you to share your story on this website and I encourage you to share your story with younger women so they can learn how to empower themselves.

  4. Golden Silence

    I believe, to this day, the old man targeted waitresses at that diner because they were young and ignorant about their rights.

    So apparently this guy didn’t get the memo that if it’s wrong to do it to one person, it’s wrong to do it period. Just because the others didn’t stand up for themselves doesn’t mean it was okay for him to continue this behavior.

  5. RSM

    Good for you for publishing this! I have a similar tale about people in uniform, specifically TSA, but mine has more to do with verbal rather than physical harassment.

    I was going through the Hartford, CT airport 3 years ago when I was 20 yrs old. I’ve flown so much that the shoes-laptop-jacket-metal detector ordeal comes to me like second nature. I looked towards the TSA worker on the other side of the metal detector to get the signal to walk through, and, with a little, knowing smirk on his face, he said, “you’re going to have to take your pants off first.” The expression on my face was probably priceless, because I can’t hide any emotion at all and I was thinking, “WTF is wrong with you?” I rolled my eyes and walked through, avoiding any eye contact with him so I wouldn’t give him any benefit of seeing his comments bother me, and I went to my gate. I SHOULD have asked who his superior was when he said it so I could complain right there and publicly embarrass him like he embarrassed me, but I didn’t want to have to deal with him.

    I know better now, and I think all women should be practicing with each other for these moments to SPEAK UP. These comments and abuses of power are too commonplace to not prepare for them, and when men say things like this, they are not expecting women to speak back. Practice makes perfect.

    NOTE: this is not implying that TSA is corrupt or that the men who work with TSA are corrupt. There is a bad apple in every bunch.