With the onset of the #MeToo movement, I want to applaud all of the brave women who have come forward and shared their stories. Unless you have been subjected to sexual assault and/or harassment, words cannot adequately express the horror of such circumstances. I too have experienced sexual assault and sexual harassment.
One of my first experiences with sexual harassment occurred at a law firm when I was a very young attorney. At the time, I was paying off student loans the size of a mortgage payment and living from paycheck to paycheck. I could not afford to lose this job. After months of extreme harassment by my supervisor, I reported him. To my dismay, the other partners at the firm waged a war against me in an effort to “properly fire” me. Fearing being blackballed by other law firms, I diligently searched for alternative employment. Thankfully, I found a job in another law firm and resigned.
Even though I did not sue this firm, I did write a letter outlining all the details of the harassment I experienced and sent it to each and every member of the office — including partner’s wives and secretarial staff. In the parting words of my letter, I stated that I sincerely hoped that their daughters, wives and mothers would never have to suffer as I did at the hands of this abhorrent partner.
Thereafter, and long before Harvey Weinstein was outed as a sexual predator sparking the national #MeToo movement, I experienced another terrifying sexual assault and harassment incident.
In 2008, I posed in Playboy and had an advice column in the publication known as the “Lawyer of Love.” The executives (the majority being men) of the magazine who were involved in my photo shoots were extremely professional and treated me with the utmost dignity and respect; however, an executive and the supervisor of my advice column was not. After enduring a barrage of unwanted sexual advances from one of Playboy’s top digital executives during my time as an online columnist, and subsequently having my column revoked when I repeatedly rebuffed his propositions, in 2009, I filed a lawsuit against Playboy Enterprises alleging gender violence, sexual harassment and emotional distress.
I acted against a titan of industry for one reason – I was confident that there were other victims out there who had suffered at this predator’s hand, and I decided I could not sit back and allow it to happen to any women who may cross his path in the future.
Shortly after my lawsuit was filed, the executive under fire resigned from the company and was stripped of his title – and power. Playboy representatives refused to give details on his departure.
As a strong advocate for women, I am beyond proud of every woman who has had the courage to tell her story and continue the fight against predators. I am a firm believer in education, empowerment and granting people the tools to truly make a difference. No one should ever have to experience this type of abuse. Period.
For more information on the #MeToo campaign or to contact a helpline should you feel you are a victim of sexual abuse or harassment, please visit www.rainn.org.