My day had a wonderful start…hot yoga at 6AM with one of my favorite instructors. Homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Great progress made with some client work. Then I read the email from Tom LaRock and the post from Wendy Pastrick regarding a harassment issue at this year’s PASS Summit. My heart is heavy.
I’ve read both texts multiple times. This line from Wendy keeps sticking in my head, “I declined, telling him I was fine.”
I understand. I’ve been there. And it’s an awful place. Any person who has been harassed knows this. Whether the harassment was physical – having someone grab your ass (or part of your body) is never funny, whether it was verbal – a sly comment with a lewd look that makes you go “ew”, doesn’t matter. The emotional response that comes with it is the indicator that you are not fine, and that you need to do something.
Very often we are taught to not “rock the boat.” Pull up your boots, put it behind you, and move on. It’s as if there is shame in experiencing that discomfort, and we must wholeheartedly deny that. If we do not, when we do NOT call out the offender, we let the offense continue. That person does it to someone else, who may or may not speak up, and the cycle continues.
I applaud Wendy for realizing that she was not fine, and for reporting it. For anyone who might think she over-reacted, I’ll strongly tell you to sit down and just stop. If you have ever experienced that feeling of discomfort, where your body temperature rises and you feel embarrassed – EVEN THOUGH YOU DID NOTHING WRONG – then you have been harassed. And if shame or fear has stopped you from saying anything, then I ask you – not encourage you, but implore you – to act differently if it occurs again. Do not wrap up those feelings inside a blanket and hide in a corner. Be brave and step forward.
I believe in going to any event with someone you trust – particularly events at the PASS Summit because there are so many people and because it’s a city where you probably don’t live. That person that goes with you is your wingman. You have his/her back, he/she has yours. You never, ever leave your wingman (if that sounds familiar, yes I’m quoting Top Gun…those pilots are on to something). If what happened to Wendy happens to you, you go right to your wingman. Do not say that you are fine. Let your wingman help you figure out next steps. One of those steps is reporting the event to PASS (or the proper governing body – HR, another Board – depending on the event) because this behavior will not change unless we begin to speak out and condemn it.
I leave you with this:
It starts with each one of us. Wendy has taken that path. In the unfortunate event that this happens to you, I hope you will follow.