Originally published Monday, 31 December 2012.
I didn't want to tell my story--the one where I said no and he didn't stop.
On a cold, dark day in February, 2006--it happened. A new coworker asked me to drinks after work. He seemed harmless enough, and I honestly didn't think twice about saying yes.
We drove to a nearby brewery and each ordered one drink.
One drink too many. One drink for a supposedly "friendly" coworker to turn aggressive. I don't know why I agreed to take one car. My car.
After drinks he asked me to go to the beach. I reluctantly said yes because it was cold, and because I thought he said dinner would follow.
After we sat on the sand for a while--he kissed me. I felt uncomfortable, but because we took my car, I didn't know what else to do. I persuaded him to go back to the car. I wanted food. He wanted me to park. Since we couldn't decide where to go to next--I parked. That was a BIG mistake. That's when it happened.
I said no but he kept going.
I tried saying no once. I said NO twice. Finally, I panicked and said NOOOOOO for the third time. But it was already too late. My innocence was gone.
I saw things I never wanted to see until my wedding night.
There are no words to describe the shame and humiliation that followed that ride back to his car. I drove as fast as I could--and forced him out. He tried being nice all of a sudden, but I didn't want to hear any apologies.
I was done trying to be Ms. Nice Girl.
He took something from me that would take me years to get back--my dignity. I burst into tears and sobbed more than I ever had in my entire life. Looking back, I can't believe I made it home while driving and sobbing with fogged over windows. On my way home, I dialed my bosses number and left her a voice mail to explain the situation.
I certainly wasn't expecting to get in trouble for reaching out to my boss for help.
Because the "incident" happened after hours--I was on my own. There was nothing my company could do to help me. Of course he lied to my boss and his boss. He told all sorts of things to get out of trouble.
Somehow this mess became entirely my fault because I was the one who agreed to a drink after work.
This guy knew I was a virgin. He also knew he could take advantage of me and continued harassing me at work. Of course he would be the only person I could see from my desk. Every day, he would slam the door and curse at me in Spanish under his breath--anything to make me feel miserable.
When I finally had the courage to confront him at work--he told me to stop acting like a 14 year old girl.
In other words, he was mad because I didn't give him what he wanted that night in my car. Seriously gross. I felt used and helpless.
I finally caught him at work with an inappropriate email, but he suddenly changed his story.
The same guy who told me he had an ex-wife said he was now married--and that I was the one who was falsely trying to get him fired. All lies. I felt so naive.
I started having panic attacks and I didn't know what to do next.
My parents didn't know how to help me. HR told me if I brought up the issue again I'd get written up.
I was the one who said no--so how was it all my fault?
I wrote these words on my blog a few days later because I had no one else to turn to.
"Do not take revenge, my friends" (Rom. 12:19) There are times when doing nothing demands much greater strength than taking action. Maintaining composure is often the best evidence of power. Even to the vilest and deadliest of charges. Jesus responded with deep, unbroken silence. His silence was so profound, it caused His accusers and spectators to wonder in awe. Men may misjudge your aim, Think they have cause to blame, Say, you are wrong; Keep on your quiet way, Christ is the Judge, not they, Fear not, be strong. The apostle Paul said, "None of these things move me" (Acts 20:24 KJV). He did not say, "None of these things hurt me."
It took me many years to forgive myself.
A couple things had to happen for me to share my story publicly. First, Ruthie Dean wrote To Tell the Truth: Courage to Speak Out against 'Respected' Men on ProdigalMagazine.com. It was her honesty and similar story that got me thinking about the story I tried to hide for the past six years. Then I reconnected with a few coworkers on Facebook, and one of them recently sent me a message that brought me to tears. He doesn't know it yet, but his kind words made me feel safe enough to finally share my story.
Looking back--I know now it wasn't my fault.
Even though I said "yes" to drinks didn't mean an open invitation to take advantage of me. Clearly! There are men in this world--bad men--who take advantage of women because they're evil.
Like the man who shot his girlfriend in the face in front of their 3 month old baby girl and then shot himself.
Like the man who killed his mother and then drove to her school and killed 20 helpless children and six adults.
Maybe there's nothing you or I can do in the moment but feel helpless, but what I do know is there is God who sees me--sees us. And one day He's coming back again to judge the earth and redeem His people.
...Until then I keep pressing on.
[Photo: Ghoguma, Creative Commons]