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COLUMN: Speaking out ... it’s #NotOkay

By Tammy Malgesini

Staff Writer

Published on October 31, 2017 5:53PM


I started writing this column last fall after the #NotOkay posts went viral on social media.

However, I never finished it. After seeing the recent #MeToo posts, I decided to pick up my pen again.

Both simple statements, they highlight issues surrounding sexual assault and sexual harassment. Mostly women have shared about their personal experiences as a way to show how prevalent the issues are and to empower themselves.

I’ve read recent reports that indicate one in three women have experienced sexual harassment at work. And, CBS news recently reported that an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds.

I don’t think much about my personal experiences regarding sexual harassment. Even as a young girl I had a strong sense of self and felt comfortable in speaking up. I knew what was happening was wrong and immediately took action. Fortunately, the people I talked to listened — and responded appropriately.

When I was in college I did a paid summer internship in personnel management at J.C. Penney in Coos Bay. I worked in multiple departments, including the automotive/sporting center annex.

I was working at the sporting center when one of the automotive center employees, who was about my same age, came over and was talking to me. As he walked away, he grabbed my butt.

Shortly afterward, I headed up to the main store to talk to Bill, the store manager. As I shared about the encounter, I told him I wasn’t even dressed provocatively.

That’s the thing with inappropriate encounters, sometimes people want to blame the victim for what happened. However, Bill immediately said it didn’t matter what I was wearing, it wasn’t appropriate for the employee.

And that wasn’t the first time I recall being faced with an inappropriate encounter.

That happened when I was in junior high. We were living in Phoenix, Oregon, and I was up the street visiting a friend.

My friend’s step-dad had just had knee surgery and was sitting on the couch with his leg stretched on a footstool. My friend had gone into the kitchen to help her mom with dinner when her step-dad exposed himself to me. My response was to give him a swift kick in the knee.

I recently had arthroscopic knee surgery and can’t even imagine the excruciating pain that would cause. It’s bad enough when one of our German shepherds accidentally bumps my foot or leg.

I understand sometimes people don’t always feel comfortable in talking about inappropriate situations. While it wasn’t related to sexual harassment, shortly after graduating from college I worked for an employer who had some questionable policies. I questioned a particular practice. However, it didn’t change.

I needed the job at the time, so I continued working there but didn’t follow the policy. While that wasn’t the best way to deal with the situation, I did report it later.

As unfortunate as it is, sometimes we overlook things or remain silent due to the potential consequences. It is my hope that as more people speak out it will effect change — whether in Hollywood, our statehouses or hometowns.

———

Tammy Malgesini is the community editor. Her column, Inside my Shoes, includes general musings about life. Contact her at tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4539.



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