#MeToo. In contributing to the conversation being had across social media by women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted by their “Harvey Weinstein”, here’s our co-founder’s story…
This was about 15 years ago. I was a 30-year-old entrepreneur with a fast-growing PR agency when I met my “Harvey” (one of them). His name was Joel and he was a staff member of our then client. Every time Cynthia – my business partner – and I went to the client’s office, Joel took every opportunity to leer at me, look me up and down, make audible “mmm” noises, request dinner dates and romantic getaways… even propose marriage. He made my skin crawl and, on a number of occasions, Cynthia would actually stand in front of me to create a physical barrier with her own person so he could not get too close to me (he often thought he deserved a hug when we would arrive at the office… we never willingly obliged, but choice was not exactly part of the exchange).
I repeatedly spoke to his boss, our client, about Joel’s behavior toward me, and he would express concern, punctuated by the same rote response, “I’ll talk to him about it.” But there would be zero change in Joel’s behavior the next time we were in their office.
It all came to an ugly and bloody head one night. Cynthia was on vacation, and I was producing and running a major event for our client, solo. Joel had been drinking… red flag number one. I had a big job to do and was staying focused on doing it. But like a relentless mosquito that keeps circling around you, he kept approaching me to “talk” and would end up trying to drape himself on me, while whispering in my ear. I repeatedly told him stop and to just walk away from me. When that didn’t work, I implored one of his co-workers to “get him away from me.” That worked… for a minute.
When he circled back for his last attempt, he went all in; he put me in a headlock, demanded a kiss, and then tried to shove his tongue down my throat…
When he circled back for his last attempt, he went all in; he put me in a headlock, demanded a kiss, and then tried to shove his tongue down my throat. Everyone in close proximity – my client, his co-workers and other party guests – got to witness this pathetic display of vile behavior from a sloppy, desperate mess of a man.
Before I could even process what was happening, my “fight” instinct kicked-in and I managed to spin myself out of his grip. This caused him to lose his footing. It felt like slow-motion as I watched him continue to tumble backwards, eventually hitting his head on the corner of a table and splitting it wide open. In that moment, it seemed like the Universe had inflicted her own brand of karmic justice, on my behalf.
Joel got forcibly removed from the event (not sure that would have happened if he didn’t require immediate medical attention), and I pulled my shit together so I could continue doing my job. Because that’s what I do.
Long night and long story short, the first phone call I got the very next morning was from my client’s CEO… or as Cynthia and I came to call him, the CAO – Chief Asshat Officer. There was no level of concern for my well-being or anything that even vaguely resembled an apology. Rather, he came at me with an aggressive inquisition. It was clear he was trying to determine if I was going to sue my client… a thought that had never crossed our minds; Cynthia and I just wanted to get back to business. I promptly hung up on him without giving him the satisfaction of answering any of his questions.
The “so sorry Joel assaulted you while you were working for me” flowers arrived later that day… signed by our client. They went into the garbage.
Once Cynthia and I took the time we needed to decide where we – as women and as business professionals – would go from there, we scheduled a one-on-one meeting with our client. We talked. He listened. Neither of us were interested in hearing lip service or an apology, even a sincere one. We wanted action. So we explained in no uncertain terms that we would drop his account if Joel was ever present in the office when we had to be there (we knew there was no chance he would be fired… it’s just how it was).
We were 100% willing to lose the client and his business, but he was not willing to lose us. So within a few days, we were told that Joel was promptly sent to work, out-of-state, in another capacity for our client.
So while my “Harvey” would no longer be an issue for me, he might be for some other woman who was just trying to do her job.
Jen Jones is the co-founder of Women You Should Know and Women You Should Fund
We Want To Hear Your #MeToo Stories
To document the pervasiveness of this – across all industries and professions – we want to hear and collect your #MeToo stories for a compilation that will be made into a short text and/or audio driven video.
If you are interested in participating (we will only use first names and the industry/field you were/are in), please write out or record your #MeToo story – briefly describe your experience and email the audio file or your written account to our editorial team here.
The more voices contributing, the greater the spotlight of solidarity that will be cast on the magnitude of this epidemic. Together, we can demand and effect change.