It’s the last day of 2017, and I haven’t written in my blog, for some time. Over the last multiple months, I have been struggling with my health, healing from cancer treatments, compromised immune systems, and major infections. Many days I simply didn’t have the strength or the will to do very much of anything, but so many things have happened in the world, that I would love to comment on.
One of those things, was the ME T OO movement which is something I really want to talk about. Most women who have been sexually harassed and are part of this movement, are not famous or have much of a voice. I am one of those women and I take this opportunity to recognize that this epidemic of sexual harassment by men in positions of power, occurs in every field of work. For me, it was in the not for profit arena, in fact, I experienced it three different times by Board Chairman’s, while I was the executive director. I was a single mother after leaving an abusive relationship with my husband and perhaps these big fish in a little pond thought it was okay. My very livelihood, as the only breadwinner in the family was threatened by their actions.
The first time it occurred with simple and that the Board Chairman was showing me something on a computer and put his hand on my legs. Needless to say it made me feel very uncomfortable and I moved away from him. My perceived rejection of him, a married man, was to use his position to influence the rest of the board members in attempt to discredit me. The second time was much more serious and I began to ask my staff to inform me every time they saw him coming into the office, so that I could have someone with me. One afternoon I received a call from a principal at the high school, whom I didn’t know, indicate to me that he was worried about me having this fellow as the Board Chairman. My staff began to tell me that every time I was out of town he would come into the office and talk to them about his sex life and make weird comments about me. When I refused to be alone with him in any way he then did as the last one did, try to influence the rest of the Board to have me fired. I was living in a small town at the time and I had to get a restraining order on him because he was going around the community telling people that he was going to kill me.
The third time was in the city of Calgary, again the Chairman of the Board, a married man, whose wife was also one the board started to make comments and awkward action surrounds me. One of my senior staff members said to me “I think he likes you”. There was a time when we had to travel to Seattle on a business transaction where I became very uncomfortable. Once we arrived in the hotel he knocked on my door and pushed himself in right into the bedroom, I felt very very uncomfortable and extricated myself out of the room. Then we went walking down the streets to go to a restaurant for supper and he stopped to add some store window, where he saw some T-shirt and he made some comment and proceeded to push my head into his chest. When we got to the restaurant he ordered one plate of food that he wanted us to share. I remember getting back to the hotel room quickly locking my door and wishing that this trip was over. After that trip he would call me up and say lewd comments but when he realized that I wasn’t going to give into him, he did what the others did and succeeded in getting me fired. The months leading up to this were difficult as he took every opportunity to yell at me to disregard me to treat me poorly at Board meetings.
The thing that really got to me was that the other women on the board asked me if he had ever made any kind of sexual innuendos, and when I said yes, they still supported my firing. His wife actually contacted my previous employers to see if I had made such claims against them. So when I look out all these big leagues getting ousted from their positions, I’m glad that those women were heard by also realize that for the majority of us nothing has or will change because of this movement.
It is time that women support women, it is time to put aside petty insecurities and competitions and recognize that women in positions of power differentiations, need to be heard. I have many stories in which women Board Chairman have treated me in atrocious ways. I have walked away from the not-for-profit world in total utter disgust and started my heart centred soul minded business.
I personally hope that 2018 will be a far better year than the last six years have been. I hope that all of you who have had to walk away from situations of sexual harassment, find peace and joy in your life. I wish you a very happy new year.