**CONTENT NOTICE: ASSAULT, WORKPLACE HARASSMENT, GRAPHIC SEXUALITY***
Update: Although writers can remove comments on their posts, I’ve opted not to do that, despite the fact that they are almost all negative. To me, it’s important for readers to see what it’s like to share a #MeToo story publicly. These comments illustrate why so few women share their stories, and why those of us who do sometimes take years to do so.
Every #MeToo story makes me feel crushed. I wonder if all women feel this way? I have no right to be surprised. I’ve written about my own attempted rape.
I’ve experienced plenty of other seedy little dramas that amount to inappropriate sexual contact, beginning with the day in 8th grade when a “popular” boy grabbed my breasts in front of all his friends, who laughed of course. “We just wanted to see if they were real,” he said.
I remember feeling like it was my fault, like I should cover myself more. If I’d told an adult what had happened (I didn’t) I imagine that is actually what they would have told me back in 1993. That was the line back then. Girls had the goods, and it was their job to protect them from any poor man who could not control himself.
Blame and responsibility are hard things to tease apart. I’m good at taking care of myself, and I pride myself on being able to make smart, safe choices. But I also don’t blame anyone who, in a given situation, didn’t have the ability or agency to keep themselves safe. Or comfortable. Or vocal. Because there have been times when that has been me too, and a vast majority of the smart, savvy and strong women I love the most.
I reported in Barrie for four years, so of course I knew Patrick Brown. I liked working with him. I never got a creepy vibe from him; he was always incredibly professional. At that time, one of his friends lived in the same condo complex as me, and I would sometimes see Patrick leaving on the early weekend mornings, with girls in cocktail dresses from the night before.
It struck me as perhaps unusual for a sitting MP to be so blase about his partying, but I knew the strongest substance he used was Red Bull, and assumed (wrongly, I guess) that he would know better than to do anything that could hurt someone, and hurt his career. Nothing made me think the situation was newsworthy, or that anything non-consensual had gone on.
Partly because I’m a feminist, and partly because I respect CTV’s thorough reporting, I believe the women who have launched allegations against him.
However I struggle as I watch some CTV reporters’ slightly smug reporting on the story. They don’t have moral authority on this one.
What happened to me happened more than 12 years ago, and for months now I’ve been struggling with whether to reveal it.
I wasn’t raped. I didn’t say anything at the time. Why? And why bring it up now?
My husband reminded me that had I said anything at the time, no one would have supported me, and I undoubtedly would not have gone on to have an excellent career at CTV, something for which I’m very grateful.
As the #MeToo allegations have poured out these past few months, I think about this one specific incident that happened to me at CTV. I wonder if my silence allowed it to perpetuate, to affect other young women who worked there. I have a lot of guilt around not speaking out against the perpetrator, in hopes of protecting others. I wasn’t confident enough then, and I don’t know if it’s meaningful or helpful now, more than a decade later.
In Spring 2006, I was just starting as a freelance segment producer for the now-defunct Canada AM. It was a dream job, after months of trying to find TV work in Toronto.
In my first week there, I reached out to an award-winning CTV reporter and anchor, who is still on the air today. Literally today, talking about Patrick Brown.
I had met him at a birthday party some weeks earlier. I didn’t know the birthday girl, but was there as the guest of one of my friends. The CTV guy introduced himself to me, and I told him of my ambitions to work in television myself. He gave me his card and said I shouldn’t hesitate to call him if there was anything he could do to help.
I was thrilled to have made such a great contact. I was already feeling indebted to him, just for the offer.
When I got the job at Canada AM, I emailed him to ask if he’d like to get coffee in the cafeteria and reconnect. My work was not done, I was still just a freelancer, and wanted to make as many good contacts as I could, in the hopes of securing full time work.
He agreed, and suggested instead I come to his office after my shift. He worked in a satellite office, so after work I took the subway to go see him. He’d just finished his live hit and asked if I’d like a tour. I was thrilled at the idea.
He showed me around the storied building where he worked, introducing me to some of his colleagues. We ended the tour back in his office where his newscast was still on, so we watched some of it and he told me about his coworkers. It all seemed very designed to help me get to know people in the industry.
Until he started kissing me.
I was confused. This was not what I had anticipated at all. I thought, perhaps naively, that it was perfectly possible to visit someone’s office for purely professional reasons. In fact, I knew it was possible, because I had done that very thing with other men and women who were willing to help me, and who didn’t expect a sexual quid pro quo.
I didn’t want to be kissing him at all, but suddenly felt very worried about offending him.
Then he started pushing on the top of my head. Women, you know this move. The universal “please give me oral sex” move. It was enough to snap me out of my concern of offending him.
“I’m not giving you a blow job in your office,” I said bluntly, as is my style.
He whined and cajoled, and I’m ashamed to say that at this point I was more worried about my reputation than my safety. I didn’t want to be “that girl.”
I turned to leave, but realized I had no idea how to get back down to the entrance in this confusing mishmash of an ancient building.
And then, his penis was out. It was like being cornered by a flasher on the subway, but with an added level of fear. I stood frozen like a statue as this man proceeded to ejaculate in front of me right onto the fancy carpet of his office.
He zipped, and I felt like I’d been turned to stone. I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak.
“I’ll show you out,” he offered.
Our goodbyes were awkward to say the least. I didn’t tell anyone, I just cried for being so stupid. And then chastised myself for crying, because I wasn’t hurt. Disgusted and traumatized, yes. Hurt, no.
And I’ve known him ever since. Casually of course. You can bet I was never alone with him again. I saw him around CTV, and even after I’d moved on to Barrie, we would run into each other covering the same stories.
I never told him how awful our encounter was for me, or that it affected my ability to work with men around his age, forever after. My distrust and antipathy toward any man who reminded me of him has profoundly affected my career and my life.
We still follow each other on Twitter. Which his how I learned he is reporting what happened with Patrick Brown. Dispassionately, of course, as reporters do. I just wonder if there is any discomfort for him in describing the story of an older man, preying on a young woman just starting her career who came to him for help, and came away traumatized. I doubt it.
This essay has been adapted from my book, “Let’s Talk: A Memoir of Mental Illness in Broadcast News” to be published in 2019.