It’s never just you

Posted: August 18, 2013 by Jender in sexual harassment

By far, not the worst story I have to tell, but the one most easily made anonymous.
As an undergraduate, a professor called me into his office to tell me that he had heard there were “rumors” that he and I were romantically involved. For a variety of reasons, I found this so untenable that I burst out laughing. I don’t think he knew how to interpret the laughter, and I was so unnerved and mystified by the whole thing that all I could think to do was excuse myself from the office.
At my undergraduate institution, faculty sometimes ate dinner in the dorms. One night, shortly after the office incident, he did. After dinner, he found me in the ‘kitchenette’ after dinner, pinned me against the refrigerator with his body, leaned in and said “maybe we should just make those rumors true.” I was terrified, and have no idea what would have happened had someone not come in the room at just that moment (they left immediately).
I avoided him thereafter, in every way I could, and he in turn made it very clear–explicitly– that he would do what he could to keep me out of a top graduate program.
I got into a good enough program anyway. Years later. I’m now tenured. The recent story that has been all in the press starts discussion in various formats. I’m contacted –just as part of a general conversation– by not one, but two different women who, it turns out, were harassed by this same guy. I’d always heard rumors, but the truth is, until those two women told me, there was a small party of me that wondered if it was just me.
Word to the wise: it’s never just you.

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