I was in college. I worked multiple jobs to pay for my tuition. One of the many jobs I had was at a hotel. I worked registration. It was a job I thoroughly enjoyed. I got to meet all types of guests from all over the world and I was able to learn new things from interacting with so many people on a daily basis. One thing I unfortunately learned that has stayed with me ever since; sexual harassment is real and it is terrifying.

At the time, I was a 19-year-old college student and I often worked the afternoon shift which made my schedule 3-11pm or on busy days 4-12am. We were also terribly understaffed which meant I worked totally alone. On some occasions, our restaurant would be open and there would be a bartender on the other side of the building. Most nights, I found myself alone at the front. This meant anyone who entered or exited the hotel would have to pass me. They often did not go quietly. I would get comments, but nothing really alarmed me.

That all changed one day when one of the departments hired a new employee. He was older than me and would often come up to the desk. when no one was around, to talk. It didn’t alarm me at first. Then, he started habitually making comments that made me uncomfortable. He would comment on women in sexual ways. He would say things that shouldn’t be said to another colleague. At this time nothing was said directly to me, but it was enough to cause me to have my guard up.

One night toward the end of my shift, he came up to the front desk and said “hey, you drive to work right?” I replied “yes, I do.” That’s when he said “Okay, good! I get off in 10 minutes when you get off and I need you to drive me home.” I shook my head and said “no I’m sorry I can’t, I have to be home my parents are expecting me.” He kept telling me that I was on his way home, even though I never told him where I lived, and insisted it would only take a minute to drop him off. I protested. He said he would be waiting by my car, yet I hadn’t told him what kind of car I drive. I was supposed to get off at 11, but I stayed at the front desk in a panic until well after 11:30. Finally, when the bartender was leaving, I asked him to walk me to my car so I wouldn’t go alone. He did. No one was waiting for me.

I still didn’t say anything to my superiors at the hotel. For weeks, I didn’t see him because I was changed to the day shift. Then, we hired a new employee who I was supposed to train. We were both put back on the night shift, and there he was. For days, when she went to clock out, I realized he would sit on a chair by the clock out station. I thought it was odd, but then I realized, he was doing that so he could check out her behind as she walked by.

The next day, my coworker and I were discussing how uncomfortable he made us.  Apparently, he had been making sexual comments to her including comments about her body parts. I asked her if she wanted me to say something. She was new and she was scared she would lose her job if she spoke up about the weird behavior of the man. She told me not to say anything. She was sure it was harmless and she was used to men making comments like that to her. Then, we began discussing our personal lives. I told her my boyfriend and I just broke up and I was having a hard time dealing with it. This is when the man appeared and said something that no man should ever say to a woman. It was so disgusting and vile that I do not want to repeat it. It made me sick to my stomach. He made a lewd comment about my private body parts. It made me so uncomfortable that I just went into the back room and I cried. I knew that was the last straw, that I had to say something because he kept escalating and taking things too far.

The next day, I came into work and I sat down with the HR team. I told them everything. One of them stood up and said “that’s enough, you did the right thing. I’m calling him right now and telling him not to come in for any more of his shifts.” He was fired on the spot. They believed me. I thought work would get a little easier after that. But, it didn’t.

He had a final paycheck that he was allowed to pick up at the hotel. Unfortunately, I was scheduled to work on payday and they weren’t sure when he was going to come in. When he did, my boss quickly grabbed me. They hid me in the back room. He came in the lobby screaming. “WHAT DID THAT B***H TELL YOU. WHAT DID I DO. YOU CAN’T JUST FIRE ME WITHOUT TELLING ME WHAT I DID.” My boss responded and said we have a 90-day trial period where any employee can be fired at any time. They didn’t need a reason to fire him.

After he finally left, I was terrified to go back to the front and do my job. I was scared he would come back. The scariest part to me was that I knew he was aware that what he did was wrong. He knew exactly why he was fired. He knew it was for sexual harassment. He knew it was me who spoke up about his behavior. When I got home that night, my nightmare didn’t end. He found my Facebook and began harassing me. He wanted to know why I told his boss what he did. He called me names. He threatened me. I wanted to quit my job. I was terrified he was going to show up when I was leaving work one night. From that day on, I no longer walked to my car alone. In fact, I always waited for someone else to get off so I was never by myself in the dark.

In his mind, he lost his job because of me, not because of his inappropriate actions. He really thought I did this to him. He wasn’t thinking about what his actions and comments were doing to ME. They made me uncomfortable, but more importantly, they made me scared. He made a job that I loved a nightmare to go to.

Luckily, I never saw or heard from him again after the Facebook messages. Unfortunately for some women, harassment doesn’t end that easily. Ever since, I have been afraid to speak up when I feel uncomfortable in the workplace. I have experienced sexual harassment many times since then. My brain instantly goes back to what happened when I was 19. It makes me think “what-if.” What if he didn’t stop after those Facebook messages? What if he showed up outside my work? What if he found me alone?

To all the women out there who have experienced sexual harassment and have spoke up, I salute you. It is not easy. That was an extremely hard decision for me to do. I hope that in the future I will have the courage to do it again. To all the women who unfortunately can say “me too,” you’re not alone. Together, we can find the courage to stand up for ourselves and put an end to sexual harassment.