The Reluctant Sexual Harassment Woman

So something shocking, terrifying, but ultimately incredible happened yesterday when I became a viral author.

In the prior weeks leading up to yesterday, Project Ava’s director of marketing and I had been discussing marketing avenues for our stories and we came to LinkedIn as a potential branding platform. I was highly skeptical of the reach the story would get since Project Ava as an organization has exactly 6 followers on LinkedIn and I only had 300 some connections lol. I also hardly ever hang out on LinkedIn so I was ignorant to it as a real social media network (sorry LinkedIn…).

Furthermore, the majority of the articles I had come across on LinkedIn were more like “5 Major Resume Mistakes to Avoid”, “10 Things To Get Ahead In the Workplace”, and other articles of that nature. While my article was certainly about work, it just didn’t seem to be the right content or tone for a professional network. When the original story published a year ago on our website, it got a moderate reach of about 6,000. I was thinking it probably wasn’t really a good story so why would it do well on LinkedIn?

I copied and pasted the whole article, the first one I had ever published online, from a 23-year-old me, as a post thinking 50 to 100 people at most would come across it. I didn’t edit it even though my writing has improved since then. There was even a caption in there for a photo I was too lazy to upload which has now been removed. I didn’t proofread before publishing. I didn’t think people would come look at my profile from it so I didn’t even bother to clean that up. Whatever. 12:00PM MT *hits publish*.

Within the first hour, the story gets so much more attention over all than I had expected.

Fast forward 3 hours and we were at over 500 likes, almost 100 shares, and 6,ooo views. People were sending me direct messages. It gets a feature in LinkedIn’s Editor’s Picks. Also, over 600 people had visited my profile! Holy crap. I started to get really self-conscience at this point. It was as if I put my adolescent journal on the internet. Who isn’t a little embarrassed sometimes of their younger self? People grow after all.

My mentality isn’t the one typical bloggers would have because I dwell on negative comments. There can be 200 positive comments and the two that disagree with me will be the ones I obsess over. So I turn off my notifications, log out of all social media, and zone everything out.

Mid-evening, I text my partner and say I hope the attention dies down soon. It seems contradictory to what one would hope but when you’re me and just don’t prepare for this kind of attention, it can be really disorienting. Although I’ve already wiped the experience from my resume and don’t mention the CEO or company name in the article, I get scared that there might be repercussions. This is what that work experience had done to me.

I log onto my laptop at midnight, about 12 hours after the article goes live and we’re now at 1,000+ likes, 70+ comments, 150+ shares, and about 26K views. I have a hard time making sense of these numbers. I make a joke about how it’s double viral like double rainbow because the definition of viral is 1oK+ views in a day. I read through every single comment and share of the post at the time and someone created a hashtag for me #belikekimberly. I’m still shook.

I addressed exactly one dismissive comment because it seemed constructive. I itched to respond to the other guy who says, “for that amount of money he can get someone way younger and better looking than you,” but decide against it. There were a few comments that told me my writing sounded like fiction, which I actually took lightheartedly because for those who are fortunate enough to have not experienced this and can continue to disregard it, it’s honestly something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemies. There’s at least one comment so far who accused me of fabricating it, and maybe this matters, maybe it doesn’t but I have a dozen people who can corroborate at this point.

I walk myself through that entire horrible ordeal of a situation again. I thought about the first day of starting and how excited and grateful I was for the opportunity. I thought about how much I actually enjoyed the work I was doing which was recruiting and business development. I also loved my co-worker and our intern. Making the decision to leave the company and my wonderful colleagues who had to continue to endure the abuse is still one of the most haunting decisions I have had to make to this day. What is the right thing to do when you’re faced with so much wrong? I still think about what I could have done better if only I knew my rights.

After reading through much of the feedback and reflecting on the actions I took, I find myself disappointed at how unequipped I was to handle this situation straight out of college as a first-generation American from a blue-collar family. In college, I remember having attended many career development workshops but none had prepared me for this reality. I even found this position through my university’s job board. When I told my parents about the harassment, they also didn’t know what to do but thankfully supported my decision to leave when I came home from work at 2:00AM and had a mental breakdown. During that time, I called a local government organization on fair compensation because of my overtime and they responded to tell me that since I was a salaried employee who was making above minimum wage, I wasn’t entitled to overtime. I didn’t know who I could turn to.

I left because I knew that if I continued to stay, I would have eventually been fired as at least 5 employees had been since I left two year ago… I decided to take the route less damaging to myself. I am haunted by this decision because I recognize that although I had the privilege to get out, there are many other out there that don’t. I view it now as a half-solution. I am more horrified to know that this company and my CEO are still operating and the reign of terror still continues.

I apologize for this unedited word vomit as I try to collect myself from this entire situation. I’m humbled, floored, and overwhelmed by the amount of positive reactions I’ve received that I cannot fully thank enough all the people who were moved by my story and shared it. I hope from the bottom of my heart that change can happen for every woman or man who has been harassed.

As of this morning, I have began to consider filing a complaint against the company so that the actions I take can fully advocate for others but am still in the process of researching how. If you have any feedback on options that I should consider or have any experience filing this time of complaint, please reach out to me via LinkedIn direct message.

We’re now at 86,000 views and counting. Thank you everyone.