Our voices matter. Every one of them.
Stick with me, this is a multi-year story:
When I was in my early 30s, I was working for a company in Atlanta, in a job I really liked, with a female boss I loved. I was writing the CEO's speeches and helping to organize the annual sales meeting and writing and producing a company-wide TV show. The job was so much fun.
At my first annual conference, I was wearing a red pantsuit. I'll never forget it, because I can remember so clearly standing there talking and meeting people. One of the regional vice presidents approached me - he had been friendly to me in the past - and in a low voice, he said, "How about a nice bubble bath and massage in my room?"
To this day, I can still hear his voice in my ear, and my stomach still sinks.
I didn't know what to say. I believe I stammered something like "That... that wouldn't be a good idea" and got away from him.
The next week, my director asked me how my first conference went with the company, and I said it was great, learned a lot, etc. Casually I mentioned, "But one of our VPs said something really weird to me" and I told him what it was. His face blanched.
As per the protocol, he told his boss, who told the Chief of Human Resources, who showed up at my office door. I refused to tell her his name, at first. I just got this job and I loved the job. I didn't want to be the whistle blower. She would not leave my office until I told her.
"You owe this to the other women at this company, Kristin. We have to address it."
So I told her. And the result was that he got a reprimand, and word got out that I had reported a well-liked and popular executive. It certainly didn't help me or any other women there.
The following year, one of the other executive vice presidents started propositioning me in front of the other officers of the company.
"Are you coming to my room tonight, Kristin?"
No one said anything.
Another executive vice president slipped his hotel room key across the table to me at the following year annual conference and said, "I'm in room xxx if you want to have the most fun you've ever had." He was married, with two kids.
I didn't tell anyone, because I had learned that all it did was hurt me. I had learned that years before, when I opted to not report a sexual assault because I knew it was my word against his and all that would happen, most likely, was that my reputation would be dragged through the mud.
I'm telling you this story because whenever a prominent figure is accused of sexual harassment or rape - Cosby, Weinstein, even the president of the United States (and I'm not just talking about the current one) - it takes a great deal of effort to stand up. It takes a groundswell. One woman, standing alone against harassment gets disdain, not support. That's why some women take a settlement, because they don't feel any hope for justice.
For all of you out there who have experienced harassment of any kind and didn't speak up because you didn't feel that your voice was loud enough on its own, I understand, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd. I get it.
I don't know the answer of how to fix the problem, but I do know that our voices have power. I'm here with you.