I’ve been struggling with the persistent memory of an older man’s inappropriate sexual behaviour to me at 18. It occurred many years ago, but shaped who I've become. I relive it almost daily.
I’d just finished my first year of university, fortunate to be hired by a professor to work in his department over the summer.
This was 1972 and I was very inexperienced - never been on a date, never been kissed.
Over the weeks, several sexist comments and advances were made. I felt so uncomfortable but didn't tell anyone for fear of losing my job.
He’d come up behind and press into me, put his arm around me and make sexual suggestions. He was 20 years older than me and in a position of authority.
I was asked out several times, but always declined politely. Once when I declined, he stopped speaking to me, so I agreed to meet him after work (against my better judgement).
He drove me to a secluded spot, and kissed me! All I felt was surprise and shame. My first kiss, but by someone I didn't really know and had no feelings for.
The behaviour continued the rest of the summer. I tried to avoid him whenever possible. He told me I couldn't date anyone and had to check in with him several times a day.
I still regret not saying something to someone. I’m now 63, so he’d be long since retired.
The shame has followed me throughout my life and influenced my day-to-day choices. I’ve never told anyone about this but if I can influence just one person to stop and consider the consequences of their actions, I’ll be happy.
Too Late to Report?
This man’s actions stole your innocence and your sense of morality. He was older, experienced, an authority figure taking advantage of you.
He used controlling orders and implied job-threatening actions that emotionally abused you to a lasting effect.
No matter that he wasn’t the only predatory professor, religious/community leader, doctor, celebrity of his era. The lives of countless young males and females like you were harmed by these people who knew what they were doing was wrong.
Now, to answer your question on reporting sexual abuse or harassment and, given the age difference and power imbalance, sexual exploitation:
A search of the law in your jurisdiction or that of the locale where this happened, will detail any limitations on the time of reporting.
(Note: in the US, the statute of limitations on sexual assault or harassment varies by state, and the victim’s age at the time of assault. In Canada, there’s no statute of limitations on reporting sexual assault).
If there are no limitations in this case, Report, Report, Report! Others will come forward.
If there are legal blocks to this, write about your experience in various forums, but check legal information to avoid issues of libel or defamation of character if you identify the person.
You’ve already achieved one of your goals here of alerting other young people to the risks of allowing inappropriate behaviour for the sake of losing a job. The result can end up being far more costly.
Lastly, I urge you to rid yourself of this painful secret by seeing a therapist. It’s a private, confidential process that can relieve your mind of any sense of fault on your part, and free you from unnecessary limits on your future.
FEEDBACK Regarding people who advise pet-owners with a sick or injured animal to “put him down” (March 15):
Reader – “As a veterinarian, I know this happens frequently. The old, decrepit pet is still enjoying life, even though he looks awful to people who don’t know him.
“What I tell the owner to say to these people is “so you are telling me that I should kill my Fifi?”
“Don’t mince words. Don’t say “put him down,” say “kill” because that’s what these people are saying. They then stop trying to tell the owner what to do.”
Reader #2 – “Several years ago, when we were spending a significant amount on our dog who had an ongoing medical condition, my husband was advised by co-workers to put her down and buy another dog.
“His reply was "Yeah, I could do that, but it wouldn't be that dog." We lost her too soon. She was a terrific dog.
Tip of the day:
If long-past trauma is still limiting your life and peace of mind, see a professional therapist to help you put it behind you.