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9.24.2012

SHOCK AND PAUSE



There are a few folks in life that have strange and uncomfortable, if not inappropriate, social behaviors.  I'm not quite sure why those behaviors manifest themselves or why we are caught so off guard by their behaviors that we are paralyzed in reacting.

My husband and several co-workers were at a public event recently where he saw a 15-16 year old boy and girl who appeared to be boyfriend and girlfriend.  This was a school sponsored high school football game.  It was a rainy cool night and she wore a white t-shirt which highlighted her overly large breasts and chunkiness.  This, at age 16 to a boy, is like candy to child!  The young man proceeded to grab her breasts as she giggled in public.  They didn't hide the behavior in front of the adults.  My husband and co-workers, who were sponsoring a tailgate tent at the football game, were so stunned they watched in horror.  They discussed what to do while being  shocked and appalled by their behavior.  About the time the shock of what they were seeing wore off and they went to talk to them, the sexually inappropriate teenagers disappeared. 

There was a man in one of the churches my first husband pastored that habitually stared at women's chests as he talked to them.  He did not look them in the eye, but very obviously stared in the breast region.  Now, if he was talking to me it could have been that his staring at my chest was like trying to find Waldo in a picture - where are her breasts!  Other women in the church shared with me that he did the same thing to them during conversation with him.  We all laughed and wondered why none of us said, "Hey, James!  Eyes up here!!"  But in the moment, it always caught us off guard.

Once years ago I was in a dressing room trying on clothes.  Totally undressed I felt an odd feeling and looked down to see a man laying on the floor in the room next to me watching me.  I was so shocked and felt so violated that I yelled at him.  It startled him and he ran.  By the time I could get my clothes on and exit the dressing room he was gone.   What I should have done was kick him in the face as hard as I could.  Shock causes a delay as your mind tries to process what has just happened.  Telling the store management what had happened did me absolutely no good other than finding out this had happened before to other women.  They had been unsuccessful in catching the repeat perpetrator.

At another congregation we served was a former rodeo rider.  He was a charismatic, warm and touchy feelie sort of man.  He hugged everyone, but especially the ladies!  His hugs though usually involved his arm around your rib cage where it felt like he was seeing how much body fat you carried.  Again, the women in the church compared notes and all hated when he hugged them feeling as if he were checking out the fat percentage of the female population within the church.  Why non of us said anything like, ""Don, are you seeing if you can pinch an inch of fat around my middle by putting your hand there?"   It always caught me off guard which caused a delay in my reaction.

I was once hugged by a salesman while alone in my office.  His hug was highly inappropriate, way too hard and far too long. As I struggled to get away, he moved his face very close to mine and stopped there,  just staring at me.  I knew what was coming next and pushed hard to get away.  Panic rose in me, followed by anger and rage.  I should have reacted with actions and harsh words, but was paralyzed by fear and panic.  I just wanted him to leave.  My husband and employer both filed a complaint against the salesman with his employer.  Sexual harassment cases though are seldom a win for the victim!  It was then that I realized that when those moments happen in my life, I need to put emotions and paralysis aside and simply REACT! 

That is no doubt why people do not pursue formal legal action in sexual harassment, rape, or assault situations - paralysis.  And, if you do pursue some sort of legal action there is no guarantee for repudiation or undoing the creepy or panicked state you experienced. 

My employer's corporate office called me to let me know what steps they had taken and the results that came from them, which amounted to nothing!  They asked if there was anything they could do for me (I appreciated the concern).  Shock from the encounter had turned to anger and I said, "Well, next time I will not file a complaint, but merely react which would have gotten me more satisfaction and results than simply logging a complaint has garnered." 

There are times we need to think through things and not react.  Sexual inappropriateness in social or work settings is not a time to think or allow awkwardness to make us fearful, panicked or paralyzed.  Those are situations where our gut reaction to react is spot on.  We need to push through the myriad of emotions and panic and do something right then! 

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