In the early 90’s, I was an overbooked public speaker, spokesperson, trainer, speech writer and producer for a slew of Fortune 500 companies. Looking back on that vibrant and successful career, I often shake my head that I didn’t have full appreciation for how much I got paid to see the most beautiful places in the world.
Instead, I felt sort of lost, feeling like I wasn’t doing anything that really mattered in this world.
In those days, I wore a lot of skirts. Some of the skirts were short. Sometimes, the skirts were short and made of leather. Once, I worked for a well known Japanese firm, and was provided with a fire engine red bustier, a tiny lace skirt and 4″ stiletto heels.
The 98 lb version of me felt pretty self-conscious wearing these items. The truth was, my 20 something svelte being and apprehensive willingness to wear these things was an unwritten and unspoken part of many of my jobs. If I was going to be hired, I had to look (and act) a certain way. My strong public speaking skills, smarts, wit and creativity would have never been heard had I not conformed to wearing short skirts and stilettos in front of enormous crowds of onlookers, judges and gawkers.
I was once in Miami for an annual sales meeting for an enormous corporation. On the last day of the meeting, I went to dinner with some colleagues and production staff to celebrate our collaborative success. It was a jovial and somewhat crazy evening. As I unwound with the rest of the crowd, I found myself pretty drunk. One of the production staff, a lighting designer and manager for the meeting, walked me back to my hotel room.
This lighting designer forced himself into my room and on me even though I repeatedly tried to fight him off. I pleaded with him to get off of me. I remember crying, praying and fighting. I remember the way he looked and smelled. When he was done, he got off of me as if he were getting off of a piece of refuse, and left my room. I was covered in his putrid sweat.
I saw him the following morning at the airport with the rest of my colleagues. I was sick. Most people probably thought it was due to my drunkenness the previous night. It wasn’t.
For many years, I didn’t think of that night as rape. I thought what happened in Miami was my fault. I was too bubbly, too outgoing, and wore too cute of an outfit. Plus, I drank too much, so I was 100% to blame.
For a few decades, I told no one. Not a single soul. I finally mentioned it to my Mom a few years ago, because it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I’d been raped by that disgusting man.
When business shifted during the telecom boom, I felt lucky that my work became far more technical and serious. I could wear very tasteful suits and no longer be in danger of “asking for it.” I actually thought that.
What I didn’t realize until the Brock Turner story became THE story, is that there are likely many other individuals just like me, who have simply been doing their jobs, simply trying to do their best, and then, a rape happens and it changes the course of a life.
For me, I ended up very invested and dedicated to the nonprofit sect and to fundraising. Now, I’m starting to design and develop curricula, teach and train others in fundraising and marketing, volunteer management and public speaking.
I’m deeply inspired by the work I’m doing. It serves others and makes a positive impact on this messy world. I hope that me spilling the beans about my secret, helps someone else feel safe to share a burden that’s become too heavy to keep to themselves. I choose to believe that every experience we endure – every scrape that turns into a scar, even a secret scar clearly provides gifts that stay with us forever as our scars do.
Oh, and I don’t really wear skirts anymore, but after tonight, I’m reconsidering adding a skirt or two to my wardrobe.