Husbands, ask your wives if they have ever been sexually harassed in the workplace. You may be both surprised and angered. I asked my wife, and here’s the story.
According to my wife, many years ago when she was a young teacher in a Pulaski County, Virginia school system, it appeared that the administration wanted “to get rid of her.” They ran into a problem doing so because they had absolutely no documentation that she had done anything worthy of dismissal. She was called into her principal’s office, apparently for an interview. While she was there, the principal put his feet up on his desk, and as she relayed it, in full view “started pulling at a string in his crotch.”
My wife said she thought it was strange behavior, but she didn’t recognize it as a sexual overture. In her words, “I was clueless!”
I couldn’t imagine a man doing that in the presence of a young lady without it being a power play, sexual harassment and/or intimidation. The fact that my wife was clueless is immaterial to the principal’s behavior. She thought he was simply being “rude.”
This raises a question in my mind about the number of young women who are subjected to inappropriate behavior while not having a clue about what is going on.
I recall taking a job with a church (incidentally, also in Virginia) where rumors had circulated that the church secretary I inherited had an “untoward” relationship with the former pastor. Of course, some wag told me about this pronto lest I fall into her clutches. I laughed about it; but, shortly after moving into the study, I called the secretary in and had a frank discussion with her on the subject. The story, of course, was totally false; but I made it clear that as long as we worked together, there would never be any hint of unsavory intimacy between us. Both of us were embarrassed that this “clearing of the air between us” was made necessary by a disgusting rumor!
As it turned out, she was the most proficient and efficient–no, outstanding–secretary with whom I ever worked. When I left that church, on my last day following about five years of service there, she came into my study, locked the door and gave me a wonderful, loving, warm hug. I asked her why she locked the door. She said, “Well, I didn’t want anyone to walk in and get the wrong impression!”
That secretary, her family and I maintain a long-distance friendship until this day. She has since retired from her job after at least thirty years of faithful service to that congregation.
This essay, full of personal information, is written to point out that women (and perhaps men, for all I know) in all professions are subject to harassment. It is important that we not let the subject slide. In the past few weeks, we have seen important, well-known men in the entertainment industry and government accused by numerous women of gross, indecent behavior.
Finally, and worst of all, we have a president in the White House who has been accused by several women of disgusting, perverted behavior. We have heard from his foul mouth the words of a harasser in the Access Hollywood tape. Let’s take these stories at face value; let’s make this type of disrespect in the workplace a thing of the past!
[Milt Hankins is a theologian, former pastor, author, columnist, and the publisher/editor of Columnist with a View (www.columnistwithaview.com). You may contact him at the following e-mail address: amsmilt@windstream. net. You can also send manuscripts or write to him at P.O. Box 913, Ashland, Kentucky 41101.]