They’re a $13B company.
I’m one Woman.
They have their in-house counsel and two external law firms.
I have one law firm and two lawyers within it.
They hired and paid for a “third-party, independent investigator.”
She used to be a shareholder in their firm and just like their external counsel, is being paid by them. She was and is a risk assessor, nothing more or less, and one whose bias hung out like a cheap slip from an ill-fitting dress.
They said I “delayed and obstructed” my initial interview.
We had requested the week of January 2nd.
They replied saying their “investigator” was “out of the country” that week and offered January 11th.
They said I gave them my statement “piecemeal.”
I had forty-eight hours to respond and gave them a fifty-five-page document complete with emails, texts, and commentary
They said I had changed my story.
We gave them a second document of twenty-eight pages five days later. I’d had to make a decision so quickly about filing my claim that I’d needed to come to terms with sharing the more grotesque details. I changed nothing; I added detail I’m sure they found shocking and difficult to defend.
The field is tilted from the Outset in situations such as this, and when the company of the accused is one like Land O’Lakes and the person in question is a C-level executive, the resources they will expend and the tactics they will employ immediately turn that tilted field into an otherwise empty seesaw slammed to the ground by a fat man. And what about truth? It’s a word in a dictionary at best, yet seemingly makes not even a cameo in theirs.
In addition to the three hour interview by their “investigator,” the brazen and easily disprovable lies told by their counsel, and the now fourteen-week delay in anything remotely resembling action on their part, I almost daily receive phone calls or texts from former colleagues telling me that someone is “snooping around” in my past, and similarly receive emails from people I hardly know baiting me with alleged requests for work, presumably in hopes I will say something of which LOL or their defense can make use. What the man in question did is sexual harassment; what they are doing now is collective institutional harassment of me, my family and friends, the amount of money and time they’re putting into this effort now openly reeking of “thou doest protest too much.”
We hold ourselves up in the West, and especially in America, as beacons of freedom and truth. When we see women in other countries deprived of their most basic of rights, we scoff and pour scorn and stand in self-righteous judgment of our undeniable superiority. But are we?
In Pakistan, they may stone a woman to death for being raped and for having the nerve to report it, the village elders claiming it was actually consensual sex out of wedlock. She will die within a few minutes or hours, while we in the West merely Shame our victims into not speaking up at all, or sentence them to protracted months or year-long death by a thousand cuts at the hands of our acerbic tongues and judgemental minds. We are so quick to view others through our selective filters, yet so hesitant to turn any lens toward ourselves. So vocal in our insistence on a change in countries we’ve never visited and never will, but too afraid to question policy or challenge authority in order to protect women at home.
Perhaps they’re right, after all, to not allow women to drive or vote and insist they hide themselves under their abaya or burqa or hijab; at least there is no pretense from the outset that they can be anything other than subservient in their respective societies; at least there is no inevitable disappointment when they discover the truth. Meanwhile, we tell our children they can do and be anything they want without adding the caveat emptor of, “unless you’re a woman, in which case you need to moderate your mind your voice and your abilities so as not to inadvertently offend or threaten the men.”
My attorney told me from the outset that once we moved into the phase of public litigation, I could expect what is referred to in his profession as the “nuts and sluts defense.” I’m not sure I need to spell out for anyone what that means: it’s victim blaming and victim shaming, the norm for defense attorneys since the beginning of the dawn of sexual harassment claims. The American equivalent of the village elders telling their audience that the woman is a slut; that it’s her fault. The proverbial stones, in this case, being the carelessly cast epithets against a woman and her integrity. And again, how are we so different than they?
Of course I’m prepared and have been from the outset, but now, fourteen weeks, two law firms, countless intrusions and multiple brazen lies later, I do wonder exactly how low they will stoop in defending the indefensible and protecting the one who deserves no protection. More time will, I’m sure, be quite telling. As has their reaction to my speaking out so far.
The second letter which came from their attorneys insisting I keep to myself elicited from me the reaction of, “I give one-half of one-eighth of one-tenth of one-one-hundredth what they think,” followed by, “That’s not how anything works.” I’m sure my own lawyer was too professional to convey that thought, and certainly not any of the more fragrant adverbs and adjectives which surrounded it. The unfortunate truth, though, is that this is exactly how things still work. Now, today, in America in 2018.
They are so certain of their ability to prevail that they have no expectation or even remotest understanding or belief in my right to do whatever I can to defend myself; to somehow slightly level that field, raise the seesaw if only one inch. They can spend tens of thousands on lawyers and more, delay for months and spread countless lies, and all the while I am meant to sit in supplicant silence. And again that says far more about them, their mindset and their arrogance than of me.
I entitled this quickly – and perhaps poorly formed – essay, “The Shame Game,” but it should or could be more appropriately named “The Shame of the Game,” because this process, like most everything else in business today, is just that – a game. And whereas I may despise both the game and the players, I have no intention of disengaging, not giving my all, pulling any punches or not speaking the truth.
And may the best woman win.