Can a woman protect herself from being raped, sexually harassed or abused? If you had to ask me this question three years ago, my answer would have been “yes”. A woman can protect herself, women should go for self-defence classes, they should carry pepper spray with them everywhere they go, they should keep an emergency number with them at all times, I would have given you many ideas on how you could protect yourself, but little did I know, it’s not that easy, little did I know that a few months after saying this, I would get sexually harassed by someone whom I thought I could trust.
My family is not very wealthy, we don’t have the most advanced technology in our home, we don’t wear expensive clothing, in fact we would wear hand-me-downs, or the cheapest clothes you can find in a sale. But we are happy, you learn to be happy with whatever little you get. I knew my parents would never be able to pay for me to go to university, even though they insisted on taking a student loan, I did not want them to get into any debt because of me, which is why I decided that after finishing high school, I would get a job, save up my own money and pay for my own studies. I was only 21 years old, I never had any relationships. For me, it was always about being a good student, and a good daughter. It was about being able to get through life without putting my parents through any hardships.
I started applying for receptionist jobs that didn’t require much experience, and soon I was offered a job at a reputable business, this was perfect for me, it was close to home, everyone knew the business was doing well, so the job would be stable and the pay seemed pretty good. I immediately accepted the offer, I guess that was my first mistake. I never questioned why a reputable company would want to hire someone who doesn’t have any experience, I never questioned the reason the previous employee left, but most importantly, I never questioned why I was the only female employee in the company. That was the moment when everything seemed too good to be true, but I was too blinded by the job offer, that I didn’t notice signs were already there.
After working at this company for about a month, I realised a few things:
- I had to share my office space with my boss.
- All the male employees were very respectful towards me.
- I was being paid more than the average receptionist (but I wasn’t complaining).
- My boss had a lot of male business partners, but they too were very respectful, or so I thought.
While sharing an office with my boss, I started noticing that sometimes he would purposely move his chair and come sit next to me, apparently he “wanted to learn what I was doing”. And while he would sit there, he would inch closer every time and try and look down my t-shirt or at my legs. He wouldn’t touch me but it felt horrible knowing your boss was raping you with his eyes. I never even knew what he was looking at, I always wore a shirt that came until my collar bones, something where even I couldn’t look under my shirt unless I pulled it forward (which I never did), and with regards to my legs, I always wore skinny jeans or leggings, so maybe it was my fault, maybe I shouldn’t have worn those tight jeans or leggings. However, after a few days he stopped coming into the office as often, and when he was there, he would sit at his own desk and do his own work, I felt relieved. It turns out his wife saw him ogling me and gave him an earful. She told him to either stop doing that to me, or she would divorce him and report him to the police. She and I became really good friends after that, obviously he was not pleased about this, but he also soon learnt to be respectful towards me.
A few months later, a really good friend of the boss and one of the shareholder’s of the company came in, this was my first meeting with the man who would soon become my number one enemy.
Let’s call him “D1” (Dickhead 1). Now Mr. D1 is a prominent figure in our society, he is a well learned man, a great scholar, someone who people go to for advice, even I respected the man, but that was before I knew it was all fake.
D1 would always come into the office, even when the boss wasn’t around, he would give me advice about life, marriage, family etc. It was all very comfortable, but one day he started asking me a few weird questions:
“You know I have another business in town, how would you feel if I booked you in a hotel there and you could help me get my paper work sorted out?” He asked
“Why don’t you bring it here? it’s easier for me” I said
“It’s a lot of paperwork. But we’ll talk about that some other time, tell me do you have a boyfriend”
“Oh no, my parents wouldn’t allow me”, why was he asking me this?
“That’s good, always obey your parents, come sit next to me, have some chips”
“No sir, I’m not hungry”
“Please, I insist”
“No sir, really, I’m not hungry”
“Okay then, come sit here on the couch, I want to show you something”
He took out his phone and started scrolling through it. But I stayed in my chair, behind my desk. Why was he acting so weird? Why did he want me to sit next to him so badly?
“Ah, found it, come sit” he patted the seat next to him.
I was confused, but I also started feeling a little hungry, whenever I feel nervous or stressed out I get hungry, but this was a different feeling, something felt wrong, I didn’t know what it was, but something felt terribly wrong. My stomach started to growl, and he heard it.
“You are hungry” he smiled, but it was a sinister smile, a smile that gave me chills.
“Come sit” I reluctantly agreed.
I sat at the end of the couch.
“Sit comfortably” still smiling, why was he smiling so much?
I leaned back a little, trying to sit comfortably.
“Here look at this” he had his phone out, but I couldn’t see clearly.
“Come closer” I only moved an inch. He immediately moved the chips that were on the middle seat, put it on his lap, and patted the seat, to tell me to move there.
I respected this man, everyone spoke only good things about him, women would go to his home for help with their marriage, girls would go to him for help with family issues, so why did I feel so afraid, why did I feel so uncomfortable?
I moved to the middle seat, and he moved closer, he put the chips on the coffee table in front of him, and as he was leaning back, he put his hand on my leg, the further he leaned back, the higher his hand started to go. His leg was now touching mine, this wasn’t right, something wasn’t right, but why couldn’t I move? His hand started going higher. And finally, the one thing that clicked in my mind was “this man is going to rape me”. Maybe he was just being nice to me, but no man is ever this nice to any women, unless they’re in a relationship. What was going on?
Why can’t I speak, why can’t I move. I felt frozen. What was he doing? He’s a respectable man in the community, he wouldn’t do anything like that, would he?
I turned my head to look at him, he had that same sinister smile, and he was moving closer. I immediately realized what was going on. I grabbed his hand and pushed him away, I immediately stood up, I needed to get out of here, I was too shocked to even speak, and so I started running, but he caught my hand and started pulling me back into the office, I resisted, but he was strong, why can’t I scream! He’s going to rape me!!!
“Shhhh, it’s okay, don’t fight it” I heard footsteps coming towards the office, he let go of my hand and took his seat on the couch again, acting as if nothing happened.
I was shocked, did he really just do that! How could he act so innocent!?
The cleaner walked in and said he wanted to clean the office, he asked us to leave the room, but my boss walked in at the same time and said he could clean some other day. D1 said he was late for a meeting and left the room. I was in shock, I just sat at my desk, and then the tears started falling, no man has ever touched my like that before, no man has ever looked at me that way, I felt dirty, I felt horrible. I explained everything to my boss. He just stared at me, he didn’t believe me! All he said was “ok, I’ll sort it out”. A few hours later, just before going home, D1 appeared again, my boss took him outside and all he told him was “from now on we’ll meet outside, don’t go in the office anymore”. That’s all!! Why didn’t he confront him, why didn’t he go to the police? Turns out the boss knew about D1’s “extra curricular activities”, he was also scared of losing such a huge shareholder from the company.
Maybe I should go to the police, but I have no proof, and money speaks louder than a women’s voice. No one would believe me, “a prominent figure would never do such a thing”. I immediately went home, I just wanted to lock myself up in my room and cry, why me!?
I immediately got home and took a shower, scrubbing myself so badly, that my leg started to bleed, I was disgusted with myself, I stopped the bleeding, put a bandage around my leg and went to bed. For almost two weeks I cried myself to sleep. I never went back to that place again, but the boss kept on calling me, I had to change my number, I dont know why I’m so angry with him, he never did anything wrong, but I still refuse to talk to that man.
I never told anyone about what happened, would my parents support me, or would they look at me in disgust? No one would believe me, they would say it’s my fault, why did I choose to wear those tight clothes? I was alone, I cut off all ties with my friends, I was afraid no one would believe me. For the next six months I stayed indoors, too afraid to go out, too afraid that maybe someone knew what happened and they would insult me, they would look at me in disgust.
Mom knew something was wrong, she kept on asking, but I never told her, not even until today. Mom and I became very close, I know she will believe me, but I also know it would break her heart, I can’t do that to her.
I don’t know what happened to him after that, apparently he moved somewhere else, his wife and kids decided to live in the city, but I’m glad I can now walk freely without the fear that he will come back, I did see him once or twice, but he just walked past me, what did I expect, an apology?
While writing this, I kept thinking back, was it really my fault? Did I give him the wrong idea? But no! It was his own fault, he was the one who could not control himself.
How many other girls did he do this to? Did he rape or molest any of them? How could a married man, with a wife and two kids do something like that? How could a learned, respectable scholar, someone whom people look up to, how could he for one moment think that it’s okay to touch a woman inappropriately? That too, without her permission!
I know my story isn’t much, but it is something that scared me, something that made me feel disgusted with myself, something that made me hate men for a long time. There are women out there, who go through worse, or are going through tough times, I can understand what they are going through, I can understand why some women prefer to stay quiet, they fear society, and they fear that they will be blamed for whatever happens. They fear for their lives, that no one would believe them. Maybe someone who reads this, gets the courage to take a stand.
I don’t know if I forgave him, I thought I did, but while writing this, all my anger came back, and all my emotions took over. I felt like take a shower again, but this time I didn’t know if I was going to come out alive.
Instead, I prayed to God, I asked him to give me strength. I know I’ll get through this, I did it before and I can do it again!
To anyone who is going through something similar, or if you have been through this, please speak up. Don’t sit quietly, it took me three years to build enough courage to write about my incident, but I finally feel a little less lighter and a whole lot happier knowing that I could share my story with the world, and hopefully help someone. There are people out there who are willing to help, please I ask you again, speak up!
If you need help, check out my previous blog “Women Disempowerment!”, I have attached a list of contact numbers which will assist you.
Thank you for reading my blog, please share it with as many people as possible.
I am a South African blogger. Through my blogs I wish to share my experiences as well as hope to make a change in someone's life.
I hope to help people who have gone through, or are going through, similar hardships as the ones I have unfortunately experienced.