My husband and I decided to go out on the town this past NYE – get dressed up and find somewhere where we could have dinner and dance to live music. I found a great dress, put on the heels for the first time since covid hit, and we were off.
The evening was going great. Music was fantastic, there was energy all around with the excitement of a new year.
It was five minutes to midnight, the dance floor was packed, my husband was right in front of me. We were laughing, sort of dancing (lol), and all of a sudden, I felt a hand up my dress. The first time it happened, I was like “what is that?” Within seconds, it happened again. At which point I asked my husband if that was him – something he would never do! Before he could say “what are you talking about?” my dress had been pulled to my waist. I quickly pulled it down, turned to the guy next to me and could see the guilt in his eyes. I grabbed my phone and just started taking photos of him. He buried his face in his partners neck and tried to put his hand in front of the camera. I kept clicking until I got his face (18 photos in the end). Not once did he question me taking his photo. He knew he was in the wrong. I was in shock, but something within my spirit knew I had to take action. He took off into the crowd and subsequently left the building within minutes. But I had his photo. I knew that was gold.
I filed the case with the police the next day and was happy to learn recently that they were able to capture this guy on their cameras and tracked him to his car – meaning they were able to get his license plate. He will be held accountable.
So that’s the story. And now here’s the impact.
I spent the next week in a fog. I was outraged that this could happen in such a public place and literally in front of my husband. I could not compute how a man thought this was a good idea. What was he getting from this act? It’s the lowest form of getting your jollies I could think of! It took several weeks to emerge from that initial fog, it took a hit on my confidence, and caused me to stumble through conversations in my work environment where before I was sharp.
When something like this happens to you, you feel violated, thrown off kilter, questioning what could have been done differently, but of course I did nothing to provoke this act so the doubt it created was ridiculous. And then there’s the bigger picture how can this be going on in what we consider to be one of the safest countries in the world?
Some facts. Gender based violence (GBV) is considered an epidemic in this country. Almost four times as many women as men have been sexually assaulted since the age of 15. Transgender and gender diverse people are about 1.5 times more likely than cisgender people to have been assaulted. Justice Peter Cory of the Supreme Court of Canada has noted, a sexual assault is “an assault upon human dignity and constitutes a denial of any concept of equality for women.” According to the government of Canada, effects of GBV include: shock and anger; fear and anxiety; irritability; increased need for control; disrupted sleep and nightmares, among other issues.
I recoiled and have not been feeling comfortable this past many weeks with “putting myself out there” as a result of this experience. My usual “A-game” took a temporary hit. Not because of anything I have done, but because some idiot thought he could get away with violating my personal space. I get angry that I am disadvantaged in society simply because I’m a woman. The silver lining is that with any toxic behaviour I face – whether with executives who have taken liberties with me (harassment, financial inequity, undermining) or men on a dance floor, I channel that anger and am jetting ahead. I’m telling my story.
People say it takes courage to report this incident and to share it here on social media. I say it has to be done. Here’s a question – why wouldn’t I report it? This isn’t about courage to me – it’s about common sense. I shouldn’t be the victim. He’s the one in the hot seat. I should not be living in the shadows. I have done nothing wrong. And the more we tell our stories, the more awareness we bring to this issue about the need for leadership by men. GBV is a pandemic in Canada and we should be speaking out everywhere and putting an end to it. Since Covid-19 started, GBV has increased by an alarming 30% here in Canada. If the shoe were on the male foot, do you think this issue would be so silent?
Unfortunately, most women stay silent when something like this happens and withdraw completely. Fear takes over and they don’t file a complaint, they don’t tell their story. We HAVE to tell our stories.
How it impacts corporations…
We have to educate men that this behaviour is unacceptable – and it’s affecting the bottom lines of organizations. How? Because women can’t bring their best selves forward at work when they are recalibrating from an incident like this. And knowing women bring so much innovative thinking to the table, it’s incumbent upon ALL men that they use their power and influence to affect change on issues like this – whether it happens at work or not is irrelevant. The impact remains the same. It benefits everyone – women, their bottom line, society. Harvard Business Review research (2021) has shown that firms with more women in senior positions are more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experiences — among many other benefits. (https://hbr.org/2021/04/research-adding-women-to-the-c-suite-changes-how-companies-think). You are literally losing creative input and energy when a woman is derailed like this.
What is needed…
It requires men to call other men out. To stand up for women (be an upstander!) – whether it’s your wife, daughter, employee – and say enough is ENOUGH. Don’t’ just feel compelled to protect your daughters – teach your sons how to behave, teach your peers and colleagues. Be that role model that the world so desperately needs. Only then will we see change happen. You have the ability to make a difference. Not only is this improving things for society, it’s keeping your competitive advantage intact. You need diverse thinking to create innovative solutions. You can’t afford to have your members of your high-flying team put into a fog for a period of any time.
Thankfully this incident happened in the last few minutes of 2022 and I am pivoting my energy in 2023 to leave that incident behind and make greater impact in this new year. To those people who have questioned why I do the work I do – it’s for situations like this – where I feel compelled to be the messenger that so many are reluctant to be – and provide cover for other women who are not as likely to speak up and help them see the path toward finding their voice – so we can make a difference. All of us – women and men – have a role to play. To make us proud and strong. I am now even more empowered than before to remain committed to women’s equal rights in this country.
What an incredible story Kelly, incredulous really! Rest assured that I am, and will continue to be, very comfortable calling out any and all forms of inappropriate behavior towards women. I can confidently say the same for the males in my life, notably my son and my friends and the guys is work with, recognizing that I don’t know the guys I work with as well as family/friends.