First of all, you know exactly who you are.
To my sexual predator,
First of all, you know exactly who you are.
Since I was 23 years old, you made me feel less than my worth on a frequent basis – for years. You were exactly ten years older than me, you were married and ended up having kids. You made me believe that a white-collar workplace came with unwanted physical contact. It has now been a decade, and what you did still haunts me like a horrendous nightmare. I’m still not over it. I don’t think I ever will be.
Remember when you would surprise me from behind my desk, and wrap your arms around my neck then kiss the back of my ears? Your beard would scratch my ears, then you would whisper inappropriate comments like, “You look so hot today, mama,” or “This outfit looks so good on you.” This happened several times a month, each time I was savagely startled because I could never see you coming from the back. Let’s cut to the chase, it was creepy.
To this day, I can still feel the stubble of your beard itching on the back of my neck. Ten years later, such disgusting sensation remains to make my skin crawl.
One day, I finally scoured the courage to ask you whether you were afraid of being reported to Human Resources (HR). You replied without hesitation, “I’m not scared because I give everyone equal treatment.” You were referring to all the young women in our twenties working in the company. Yes, I saw that you harassed them in exactly the same way. I heard you say sweet-nothings to them over cubicle walls. I heard them giggle. I always wondered whether they were faking it like I did. Let me simply set it straight: there’s no equal treatment in sexual assault. In fact, this made you even worse of a devil than you already were.
Furthermore, you made it into a competition among women. Who was going to get a surprise hug and neck kiss from you today? Each time you assaulted me, I would look up and attempt to comprehend various looks I received from older women peeking around. Some looks seemed to say, “Ha, he got you! Maybe you’re getting what you deserve.” Some came with eyes of pity, “I’m so sorry this is happening to you, honey.” Some looks reeked of jealousy, “How come he didn’t pick me for a hug today?” This is how demented you made our working environment to be. It was a distorted contest of your attention – one of which I hated to be on the receiving end.
Again and again, the stubble of your beard itching on the back of my neck, the saliva you left on my skin; I waited to wipe it off until you turned the corner, out of my sight.
I bet you already forgot, but I have to live with this. One year during Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I was showing our company booth to famous music producers who became my friends through the years. You, as usual, came from behind and slapped my butt cheeks. BAM! WHACK! I, along with the producers, stopped. We sank in complete abhorrent shock. For a few seconds, which felt like hours, I stood still with my butt cheeks still stinging from your slap. I grew as red as a tomato and had absolutely no idea what to do. You panicked and pulled me aside to say, “Hey, I’m really sorry I did that. Please don’t report it to HR.” I was young, naive and weak. So I unwillingly nodded then murmured, “Okay.” When I returned to my music producer friends, they felt sorry for me they asked, “Is this how your company operates?” I did not have an answer for this. None of them ever treated me in this manner.
I will never forget how belittled and powerless I felt in that moment.
The worst part is, every time I recount this story I have to explain that I was wearing a pantsuit. As if wearing a miniskirt would’ve pardoned your loathsome actions. But that’s wrong. What I wore was and could never have been an invite for sexual assault. This, everyone woman needs to know.
When you saw that I was rising fast in the company, you felt paralyzed to my growth and started rumors about my behavior. It was YOU who made others believe that I had slept my way up the career ladder. Was it so hard for you to believe a young woman could possibly possess capabilities of working hard then rise to the occasion when the time called for it? I heard whispers in the office; I knew the gossip surrounding me that was utterly untrue, yet I was helpless to do anything about it. Do you know what it felt like to work tirelessly, but have everyone else believe that it was sexuality, and not my intelligence and hard work that contributed to my success? You’ll never know how horrible and discredited that felt like.
The slap of your hand on my behind, the rage you left in my soul; as always, I waited for it to temporarily subside until you turned the corner, out of my sight.
One would presume this was about gender and power. But you made it about race, too. You were white, and you made sure I knew I was a desirable Asian woman with comments like, “You know what they say about Asian women.” Beyond sexual assault, you made me feel different due to the color of my skin and my ethnicity. You should’ve known and behaved better.
I believe that phases in life also maneuver in themes. During this part of my life, you made it about the theme of “battle.” I entered the office doors daily, with my guard up, ready to fend myself from gossip and unpredictable assaults. The only weapon I had was taking the high road. The day I announced that I was leaving the company, we had our very last conversation in your office. You told me how proud of you were of me. I smiled and received the compliment in facade, but in my mind, I vomited. I feared for the women who would continue to work with you. Yet, my authentic voice was on mute.
At least one fantastic thing came out of this awful shadow you created in my life, I now have a company focused on empowering young women. From the theme of “battle,” my life has now transitioned to “grace.” Because of your heinous actions, I know to keep sharing as I’m doing now, so women I lead are aware: assaults, similar to yours, are intolerable and speaking up is key. This may be the only positive outcome from this ordeal, which came out of your terrible doings. Grace…it is the strength, which upholds any woman who has worn the same pair of dirty shoes.
I’m frightfully surprised that I’ve been sitting on this article for a week. I’ve been living with years of abuse for more than a decade. I could choose for continual silence. Do you know how it feels to live in fear of retaliation? Of losing everything you’ve worked so hard for? To feel so vulnerable for nothing you’ve ever done, but for someone else’s atrocious and unwanted acts attacking your body?
I don’t want to be an extra person in the room, talking about my experiences of sexual assault. NO ONE wants to join this tribe. I’m certain that my story is most women’s story. We need this dialogue for future generations to comprehend that mistreatment toward women is undermining our abilities to soar. This is an ode to them.
In the face of adversity, pressure and crisis, I believe the true testament of a person’s character is unveiled. To do the right thing despite unpredictable consequences, despite naysayers, despite all that could go wrong, I choose to follow through, speak out and share my story. I choose the path of courage. Despite all that I can lose, I’m still moving forward with my decision because of principles. I’m doing this as a tribute to the generations of women that have come before me – who have endured similar trauma or worse, sexual violence and rape – whose voices were silenced and never heard. I want to share my story and give voice to the countless women who never had the opportunity to join the conversation we’re having in today’s climate. Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.
Ladies, be an agent of this revolution. Be an active member of your community, speak up and share your stories. You can make an impact. You can be the seed of change.
I would send this message directly to you, but apparently you’ve already de-friended me on Facebook. I don’t wonder how you sleep at night, but I do hope you raise your two sons to be far better men than you ever can be.
I’m proud that I’m not damaged by you. I’m evermore the strong and empowered woman who I always knew I am. I continue to walk through life with charisma and positivity because I refuse to do otherwise. I refuse to be defined by your assaults. It’s a part of my experience, but it’s not the entirety of my worldly journey.
I still walk through life inspired, arm-in-arm with women around the globe.