When I was in my early 20s I was sexually harassed by a co-worker. I was a feminist and a women’s studies major and had volunteered for a sexual assault response line, and yet when my co-worker commented on my breasts, when he started touching my back inappropriately at work and offering massages and talking about my breasts again and how they looked good in that shirt I was wearing and how I could pull off one of those pointy Madonna bras, I completely shut down. I didn’t report it to HR, even though I knew and liked our kind, quiet generalist. I didn’t tell my boss, who was a woman I admired. I didn’t tell my boyfriend, not for two years, not until we were two bottles deep at a wine bar and it all came up hot and fast like vomit.
I quit that job. It’s been almost 10 years. I think about the harassment almost every day, and the shame I still feel over not telling anyone.