Just Saying 'No' To Sexual Harassment Never Worked For Me

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I was working in an office supply store; most of the staff was made up of young adults, and older “real” adults.

I was a cashier (and a damn good one, too!) I’d usually be put in the customer service section of the store because I handled people well, and the clients liked me. Being behind customer service meant that co-workers would come in and out of my area to retrieve items that weren’t allowed out on the floor.

One of the guys who worked on the floor, we’ll call him Tim, was dating another cashier. They were the “it” couple of the store, having been together for years. They appeared so in love, and just so connected, that I often envied that relationship and wished for one of my own. 

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Tim was friendly to everyone, but as time went on, his behavior toward me dangled between light flirting, and outright inappropriate conduct

It was back-to-school time, and lines were long, people were in a hurry, and everyone had lost their patience. I was ringing up a large order for a female teacher when Tim entered my area. He tickled my ribs, and as I was scanning items, I cringed and laughed; laughing is automatic when someone tickles me, and it’s also one of my reactions when I’m in an awkward situation.

I asked him to stop, politely, and continued ringing. Tim went on tickling me while I hunched over attempting to block him, continually asking him to please stop. The female teacher witnessed this, and after Tim left, explained that it was sexual harassment and I shouldn’t put up with it.

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Anyone who’s ever worked anywhere knows that when you need money and are relying on a paycheck, you try not to make waves. My concern was his girlfriend. Would she think I was flirting, too? Why would he do this to me when she was in the store, at the same time? I thought I was overthinking it, and that nothing was wrong. The female teacher misunderstood, and so had I.

A few weeks later, after a LOT more tickling, and uncomfortable chit-chat, Tim found me in the break room while I was eating lunch. I had been standing in front of the soda machine, contemplating which bubbly beverage I’d spend my dollar on.

Tim came up behind me, picked me up, and started to hump me. I screamed for him to stop. I screamed “NO.” Our break room was at the back of the store, behind several heavy doors; my screams were unheard. 

After he finally put me down, he laughed and walked out. I sat in the room, wondering what had just happened. I imagined it, I thought. That couldn’t REALLY have occurred. His girlfriend was scheduled to be at work any minute, and she’d need to enter the break room to clock in. How could he do that to her? To me

It was at that point I realized I no longer felt OK just accepting it for a lousy few dollars. I confided in another co-worker who was very upset about Tim’s behavior. He did me a favor and went to the manager for me to explain the situation so I didn’t have to.

A few days later, it was announced that Tim would be moving to a new store location because they needed him there more. He was pretty upset about the move, and so was his girlfriend.

She tried talking to management to keep him in our store, but it was already set in stone. 

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He never knew why he was transferred. To this day, if he even thinks about it, his actions came with no consequences.

It didn’t matter that he did bad things, because there were no ramifications.

I recently came upon his Facebook profile and saw that he was married to a different woman, not the girl he was so in love with while we worked together. He looked unhappy, and I felt bad.

This is a man who did wrong to me, and yet I felt sorry for him. It’s obvious I have issues to work out.

However, for the woman being sexually harassed at work but doesn’t want to say anything: I GET YOU! You are not alone. 1 in 3 women is harassed at work. Look around at the woman sitting next to you. Chances are if it’s not you, one of them has been harassed. 

I had a choice. I said no, and it didn’t matter. Anyone that tells you that you have a choice in the situation is more than likely someone who hasn’t experienced it firsthand. 

If you are being sexually harassed at work, there are laws to protect you. You are never alone.

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Liza Walter is a writer who focuses on current events, pop culture, and true crime.