Because I didn’t do anything wrong…
I was in my 20s, about to finish up my college degree. I was working at an all-female pharmacy, the only one in the state at the time. We all worked together well. No egos. No tempers. We were a great team.
Then he came.
No one minded that we suddenly had a male pharmacist working with us. That wasn’t it. It was what he did that was the problem.
I’d lean forward to grab a sticker for the prescription bottle, and his arm would suddenly jut out so that my chest would be rubbing against his arm. The first time I thought it was an accident. Pharmacies are confined workspaces with a lot of people moving fast. But it kept happening.
Then it got worse. He’d come up behind me, cage me in with both his arms grabbing the counter, pinning me against the pharmacy counter as his front rubbed hard up against my backside. There was no one else there. I was dazed. I felt sick, about to vomit. But no one else had seen it.
Should I tell someone?
I went home and told some friends what was happening and how sick it made me feel and how I couldn’t stand to be near him. Every red flag was raised. Every alarm bell was blaring in my brain. Shouldn’t I warn the other gals? Shouldn’t he be stopped?
I was told I was being too sensitive and it was such a tight workspace and I definitely shouldn’t say anything since if I was wrong, it would be slander. But I knew I couldn’t keep working with him. I transferred to a different store.
Three weeks later, that pharmacist transferred to my new store. My complete lack of a poker face betrayed me. One of the male pharmacists at the new store saw me react and took me aside, asking me what was wrong. I told him I was going to have to quit. I couldn’t work with him. He was why I left my last store. He asked me what had happened. I shook my head. I couldn’t say it. Would he think I was overreacting too?
He asked me if I’d mind just working with him. He would request from his boss that he only work with me as his tech. Now this guy wasn’t completely innocent in his motives—he loved to watch the game from a stool in the corner, and he loved working with me because I was fast and able to take care of everything apart from his legal requirement to confirm the right pill was in the bottle, so he would get the maximum time to watch the game. But I didn’t care. It got me away from the other guy. I agreed. I worked only with him from then on, and everything was fine.
Two weeks later we got the word that the head pharmacy tech (also female) had lodged a formal sexual harassment complaint against the newly transferred pharmacist.
I felt vindicated. I felt sick that I hadn’t warned anyone. I never talked about it. I felt ashamed. I felt there was something wrong with me that men like that were attracted to me.
It isn’t ok. I refuse to own shame when I did nothing wrong. Me too.