The Faculty
Published in

The Faculty

Why I’m Glad I Shared My #MeToo Story with My Students

Photo courtesy of Danielle Clark
Photo courtesy of Danielle Clark

While discussing sexual harassment during a human resources module, I without planning added, “…And it can happen to anyone, at any time. In fact, just a few years ago, it happened to me.” I was shocked as those words came out of my mouth. I hadn’t planned to be so personal, so vulnerable. When I had been lecturing to my business undergraduate students about sexual harassment, I sensed the topic seemed distant and unrelatable to many. But now that I had proclaimed ‘me too’, my students no longer had a glazed look in their eyes. They were now leaning in closer, with curiosity and care. The topic of sexual harassment was now real. At that moment, I knew I had to tell my story.

I continued, “When I was in my early thirties, while at the opening coffee reception at an academic conference, an acquaintance Alice and I began chatting and we really hit it off. Alice was in her late fifties and was close friends to a mutual acquaintance. She invited me to go with her to a friend’s house later that night for dinner. I excitedly agreed. I looked up to Alice and hoped she’d be a mentor to me in the years to come as I continued to forge a path in higher education.

Alan and Joanna were excellent hosts — and cooks. The couple was in their late seventies. Both were sweet and engaging conversationalists. The seared scallops, the garlic mashed potatoes, and the chardonnay were all phenomenal.

At the end of the night to express my gratitude, I hugged Joanna. I then hugged Alan. That’s when Alan firmly pressed his hand into my lower back preventing me from moving, preventing me from escaping. Alan with his other hand grabbed my breast and squeezed it firmly, so much so that my eyes watered. Alan squeezed my aching breast even tighter and moved it in a fast circle. He then pushed me away from him. All of this happened in a matter of three seconds. When Alan released me, I was dizzy, ashamed, and confused. What just happened? I looked at Alice and then Joanna. They were chitchatting, still saying their goodbyes as old friends do. None of them had seen a thing. I looked at Alan, but he wouldn’t make eye contact with me. He was looking at books on his shelf as if nothing happened.”

I paused from my storytelling and looked at my students. Their attention gave me the motivation I needed to carry on. I took a deep breath in and continued, knowing the part of the story I was about to share was the hardest to admit.

“After Alan touched me, my mind spun. Was Alan touching me my fault? Did I cause this? Was I flirting? Did I smile too much? Did I give him the wrong idea? Yes, that is where my mind went first. That it had been my fault. I can’t explain to you why my mind went to a place of distorted reality, but it did. In those first few seconds, I felt like ‘the bad one’. I then found my logical mind and determined that nothing was my fault. Alan was a predator. I then panicked. Oh my God. Alan was a predator. I wanted to tell Joanna. But what would I say? And would she believe me? She had only known me for four hours. She had been with her husband for close to fifty years. I left that night, never finding the courage to tell Joanna.

Alice and I took a cab back to the hotel we were staying at for the conference. There was a burning inside of me to tell her what happened, but I didn’t. I feared Alice wouldn’t believe me. I was afraid I would look like ‘the bad one”. I didn’t want to hurt the potential of mentorship and worst, my reputation at the conference if Alice made the other attendees believe I was trouble.

When I was in my hotel room, I was shaking, and I cried and I called my husband, telling him everything. I felt dirty. Disrespected. Violated. I slept terribly that night and in the nights to come.

I saw Alice three more times during the conference and I never once said anything.”

With my students looking directly into my eyes, I looked back at them with as much confidence as I could muster. I took a sip of my water and brought the lesson home, “Me. The strong, extroverted, opinionated, educated badass you know me as couldn’t find her voice. Sexual harassment is real. The impacts are real. We all have to do our part to keep ourselves and others safe.”

A sense of pride washed over me. Sure, I hadn’t found my voice a few years back, but I found it at this moment. I hoped my story would remind the students about the importance of consent, holding other people accountable, and finding their voices. I was satisfied knowing my story may impact them later on in the future.

Just then a student raised her hand. Jessica shared her ‘me too’ story with the class from when she was in the military. She was grateful to have had the opportunity to educate the class while in a way giving herself a chance to heal. Later that night, Brian emailed me. Brian had been raped when he was nine years old. He had wanted to share his ‘me too’ story with the class, but he wasn’t quite ready. He didn’t want to regret not speaking up, so he shared his story with me. After we emailed back and forth, he said he felt lighter and that I had a profound impact on his life.

That night, I realized the glazed looks I had noticed at the beginning of class hadn’t only been from students who couldn’t understand what sexual harassment was. Those looks had also come from students who knew exactly what sexual harassment was but hadn’t heard enough ‘me too’ stories to feel like they weren’t alone. I changed that.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Dr. Danielle Clark

Dr. Danielle Clark

Psychic Medium. Dog/cat/human mama. Business Professor. Life coach. Healer. One with the Universe. ENFJ. Avid tea drinker. Long walker.