D. HORNE

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D. Horne

D. Horne
Location
Montgomery County, Maryland,
Birthday
June 02
Title
Citizen at Large
Bio
author of "The Light in the Leaves: a memoir about an American mother and daughter" (preparing for republication as an ebook)

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Salon.com
NOVEMBER 10, 2011 1:32AM

Sexual Harassment and Dirty Old Men

Rate: 2 Flag

Having worked my entire adult life, I’ve been one of the many women who encountered sexual harassment on the job. While working as a legal secretary in the South during the 1980’s, I met more than my share of unusual and interesting people.  In one of the more difficult experiences, a client of the law firm where I was employed began a campaign to get my attention.  He telephone constantly and asked the switchboard operator for my boss, sometimes over twenty times a day, knowing I would answer the phone.  Many times, he said nothing and simply breathed heavily when I answered.  Other times he would randomly ask what I was wearing and made inappropriate suggestions.  One of the most embarrassing moments during one of his visits to our office included his announcement to me and two other people in our office that he wanted to have “hot, raw sex with me.”  I was mortified.

At the time, I was a single mother with two young children and struggling with a very demanding job that I desperately needed.  I mentioned to my boss how uncomfortable this situation was becoming and I was told to just ignore it.  He was a very important client.  It was impossible to focus and work efficiently with the barrage of phone calls.

There were other problems with this job.  I was a novice to the legal field working for a partner who needed more experienced support, so I wasn’t the best fit.  Ultimately, as the embarrassment of dealing with this unpleasant, ridiculous client continued to be more difficult, I went to the office manager and delivered an ultimatum: either the client had to be pulled in line or I would have to leave.  The next morning I was given a check for three weeks’ pay and escorted out to the elevator.

Fortunately, I survived and quickly found another job but it was very traumatic and disappointing to realize no one had come to my defense.  I could have filed suit, but I needed a job.  The local business community would have ostracized me and I could not afford for that to happen.  I did nothing about it and put it behind me, but I’ve always regretted the decision to be silent.

So when America starts to critique and disrupt the lives of Herman Cain’s sexual harassment accusers, we should all remember that the laws intended to protect people from sexual harassment are there for a reason.  I know women who have taken advantage of employers who would rather settle a claim than investigate it thoroughly, but the vast majority of sexual harassment claims are filed by people who simply want to be allowed to do their job in an atmosphere of respect.  Everyone deserves at least that.

Today I watched a clip of Mike Huckabee making jokes about being sexually harassed in Popeye’s Chicken when a woman at the counter called him “honey”.  He thought it was cute.  Clearly, Mike has never had to endure unwanted sexual attention at work, or had to worry about being felt up by someone with the power to fire him.  He wouldn’t think it was very funny.  I’ve even heard a female commentator on Fox News speculating that Herman Cain’s accuser was much less credible because she waited all this time to come forward, and she would have been more credible had she told everyone about it at the time and charged him with assault.  Maybe that commentator should give me a call.  I’d like to help her rethink that point.

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Comments

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it's hard to change the culture of a nation, it takes generations. but although it's necessarily slow, it's also urgent, there's always people caught between harassment and keeping a job. the result can sometimes be charges of stridency, allowing the culture to denigrate the person making charges, and dissipate the need for action.

still, there has been visible progress in my adult lifetime, so nil desperandum, and keep pressing.
Assuming Mike Huckabee is straight…I wonder how “cute” he would think it if he worked in an office with several gay guys who regularly mention that they wanted to have “raw, hot sex” with him. I wonder how he would react to remarks questioning the size of his penis.

Of course, most gays wouldn’t do that. And most men shouldn’t do that kind of thing to women either.

We’ve all seen it…it happens much more often than it should.

Sorry some old fart like me was rude and inconsiderate to you, D., but most of us have enough class not to act that way.
This experience taught me a great deal. I have great appreciation for the old farts with class! Thanks for your comments.
I am sorry to hear about your experience. Unfortunately it occurs all too often. I do believe it is less prevalent now than it once one due to stiffer harassment laws. It still exists and it is abhorrent. Many of these men never get over their adolescence. I have worked in several large firms and they now take this problem seriously with swift punishments. It is about time. Great article D. Horne.
I know this is a hot point today on OS, and many men in the spirit of support have come forward, however I can't help but notice that most mention this is getting better or that firms don't put up with it, today. I don't think that much is different, I have worked blue collar, corporate sales and in a large hospital and I think it's alive and thriving. I still would not report my boss, or a powerful coworker unless I was quitting. Thanks for this, it opens a lot of discourse.