Nearly a year ago, I found myself in an uncomfortable situation. I was at a monthly book club meeting and we were supposed to be discussing A Time to Kill. Instead, the group members decided to talk about Matt Lauer’s firing from NBC after multiple colleagues accused him of sexual harassment.
I’d say it’s questionable whether casually discussing sexual harassment among a group of people who don’t really know each other is appropriate, but what bothered me specifically was that they were treating the story like gossip, excitedly debating if the allegations will reignite the supposed feud between Lauer and Ann Curry.
I sat silently and uncomfortably throughout this discussion, remembering my own experience of sexual harassment at work. About two years ago, I quit my job because of unsettling behavior from a supervisor. I was only there for four months. My supervisor first made comments about my appearance, which I initially thought were possibly misplaced attempts at compliments. I became more alarmed after he made multiple suggestions of wanting to initiate a sexual relationship with me.
I quickly started looking for a new job and turned in my letter of resignation as soon as I received a new offer. And even though my ordeal was over relatively quickly, it was still incredibly anxiety-inducing. I worried about not being able to find another job and not being able to pay monthly bills. I worried about my supervisor giving me a bad reference so I’d never be able to find another job.
Since the spread of the #MeToo Movement, I’ve been subjected to plenty of unsolicited opinions from people about what they think of specific allegations against popular celebrities and whether they think the accusers are credible. I’ve considered asking, “This happened to me too, and I’m not interested in your opinion, so can you please shut up?” But usually I just listen silently and angrily.
My point is that reports of sexual misconduct are not “scandals” or “gossip.” Many people are subjected to this behavior every day. Our focus shouldn’t be on salacious details, but what we can do to help victims.
Guest columns are written by The Sentry staff writers to give them the experience of writing an editorial and the platform to share their stories.