SEXUAL HARRASSMENT WAS NOT--IN MY JOB DESCRIPTION.
(This chapter is from my book, The Beauty Queen--Let No Deed Go Unpublished.)
I lasted five years with Arkansas Educational Television. In the beginning, my starting salary was nine thousand dollars a year and, five years later, when AETN and I parted company, my yearly salary was ten thousand, five hundred dollars.... not much money for me and two children.
My boss, Lee Reaves, was the Executive Director of Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN). Once Secretary of the Arkansas Senate, Lee Reaves was appointed as the Network's Director by Arkansas's Democratic Governor, Orval Faubus.
The unqualified Director liked to brag that he knew nothing about television… except how to turn his TV set, on and off. Middle-aged, balding, and carrying an abundance of loose, flabby fat, the Politician-Turned- Director was a typical looking/acting---Good-Old-Boy-Democrat. When he smiled his squinty eyes squeezed closed and he resembled some slimy night-crawler from the swamp.
I endured the ignoramus-from-hell because I needed a paycheck. For five years, AETN’s highest official called me to his office on an average of twice a week and--- when the door closed--- groped me--- grunting like a pig. He forced his hand up my skirt at the same time he tried to kiss me with his sticky wet, slobbery lips, His snake-like tongue would jab at my face, demanding to get through my clenched teeth. Each wrestling session lasted only as long as it took me to unpin myself from his heavy-weighty body, grab the doorknob, and break-free.
Each time I left his office, I vowed it wouldn’t happen again. Gradually, he put more and more pressure on me to come to his office, sometimes being so brazen as to come to the studio and interrupt taping sessions with important guests. Eventually, I got wise to his nasty game.
I watched young secretaries go to his office and come out with their hair messy, their sweaters half-open, almost unbuttoned. One afternoon, walking down the hall to the bathroom, I saw the art teacher run from his office, lipstick smeared over her face....her artist smock turned backwards!
One by one, I visited with these women. I begged them to join me in a formal complaint against the Director’s relentless sexual harassment. Victim after female victim said no....they desperately needed their jobs. They couldn't speak-out for fear of being fired and they warned me not to include their names in any complaint. If so, they would deny, deny,deny.
The day came when the Director walked in the TV studio where I was discussing an upcoming pledge drive with a group of volunteers. Smacking those slimy lips together as he often did when up to no-good, the Director said he needed to talk with me in his office. I tried everyway possible to stall, but, using his most authoritative voice, he demanded I come with him immediately....and I did.
As soon as his hands began grabbing my breasts and I heard: “You’re so cute and sexy, I just have to kiss you and touch you all over.”…. I screamed. I slapped his fat, saggy jowls and pushed his nasty-spongy body away from me with such force--- the bastard lost his balance, fell backwards across his desk, and I kept screaming. I ran out of his office, screaming, and found everyone in the hall, staring at the Director’s door, wondering why a woman was screaming. The Director’s door opened behind me and everyone heard the Director yell: “You’re fired, you ungrateful bitch; you’ll never work in television again!”
Five minutes later, leaving the building with my belongings, I heard the Station Director limping and grunting behind me, trying to catch up. “If you leave right now, I’ll call the Board and tell them you quit!” Thats when I stopped, turned, looked my abuser straight in the eye and shouted my reply....so everyone could hear me: “People in this building heard you fire me.... they are my witnesses. Don’t worry about reporting ME to the Board. I’m on my way to the governor’s office, right now, to report YOU for sexually abusing me and every woman in this state office!"
Although I had carefully document each detail about the ongoing sexual abuse, this was the seventies when women were seen.... but never heard....in the courtrooms. Without legal support, I had no choice but find another job.
But....I'll always remember how strong I felt that day....The day I experienced "My Harper-Valley-PTA" moment.