[trigger warning] I Want To Talk About Other Things Instead But…

openstackI was at the major OpenStack Summit super party at the Red Hat sponsored Banger’s pub, having come out of the bathroom and ran into a former colleague going into bathroom.

We hugged. Which is totally fine. I’m okay with hugs that I initiate.

We talked, happy for one another in our new roles / respective companies and then said our good byes with a hug.

But then.

He said, “I could kiss you.”

And before I could react, he grabbed me by the head and planted a wet one right on my mouth.

And then he turned and went to the bathroom.

I don’t know if he saw the panic / shock / trigger eyes, but I THINK I plastered on a smile and went back to my crowd. My only goal then was to normalize. “No big deal. He’s Belgian. I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it. Relax. Breathe. Talk to colleagues. Dance with the boss.”

But then.

The next night I told a colleague. Who was horrified. “Report him.”

I shrugged it off explaining, yeah, it’s all well and good to fight for other people, but when it comes to fighting for myself, I’m a total wimp. And it’s just an education opportunity. He probably didn’t mean anything by it.

I defended him. I qualified the harassment.

And then admitted, “Actually I just don’t want to tell anyone. I like pretending everything is okay cause then I don’t have to deal with being ill.”

Except I’m not okay.

That night I had horrible nightmares. And in the morning, I completely broken down.

A few years ago I broke down similarly but I had no freaking idea how to cope or how to self care and so I tried to leap out of a moving car. This morning, however, I leapt in the shower and gave myself permission to howl. I let the emotion wash over me and whenever suicidal thoughts happened, I reminded myself that my son is waiting for me back in the Netherlands.

I calmed down.

I called my partner. I asked an old friend to come over. We talked it out. For hours.

I told my boss. And his boss. And I decided to report the harassment.

I will admit that I was on the defense. Having experienced victim shaming first hand, I asserted that I hadn’t been drinking, that I was wearing a tee shirt and jeans, that I assumed I was in a safe environment because it was a work related event and that I wasn’t alone with him – we were in the middle of a crowded room.

But no, no one saw it.

No witnesses.

And to an outsider, I walked away laughing.

At first I was going to file it anonymously, but then I thought I’d be Dutch about it – yes, tell him my name. Be blunt. Unafraid.

But I am.

So very terrified.

The report is filed and the conversations are over on my side. We’ll see what happens next.

And I’ll let you know.

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  • Lisa Pineau

    A few men seem to get off on causing shock, pain or disgust. Without strong confrontation, men who flash genitals, peek in Windows, force kisses – can go on to rape. Good reason to provide consequences, to report. Brava for you, for us.

    Lately, heard in 25-35 years human reproduction will be asexual, using pluripotent stem cells to make gametes. I have so enjoyed sex, but can only be a cultural enhancement when men no longer identify as studs. And no longer look for objects of aggression.