I am one of the many women who have experienced harassment only to have my complaints thrown to the wayside. The man who harassed me was a member of my synagogue. He and his wife invited me to stay with them for a while as they knew I did not have a place to stay. I was excited that members of my synagogue would be so kind. I was in the process of conversion and I was hoping to learn how a Jewish household was run, how to prepare Jewish food and celebrate holidays. I thought I might be able to help them out as well as their house and yard were big.
The first few weeks I was there they were away on a cruise and I watched their dog. Upon their return they became different people than the ones I had met at synagogue. They had always been friendly and kind. Now that I was living with them they suddenly changed. They began taunting me with things they found out about me. Nothing bad, but these were things that only my landlord who had sent me into homelessness would know. I realized they must somehow know her, probably through the senior services office she had worked at. A friend invited me out for a drink on my birthday and I was treated as though I was a minor, even though I was 54 at the time. I was told I wore children’s clothing, they insinuated that my ex’s family only pretended to like me, and on and on and on. It got worse instead of better. I knew through experience not to over react and leave, as I had no where to go. They knew this, and it was winter in Seattle. I bit my tongue at all of their verbal abuse and weathered out the winter.
The abuse was not only at home. He was active in the same political groups that I was and tried to sway their opinion of me for the worse rather than the better. This had an impact on my employment as the people involved in the political groups were also my employers. At Torah study they mocked me and carried on theatrics to make me look bad. I had no idea why they were doing these things to me and I was very hurt by it.
I moved out of their house and their abuse continued at political functions and at synagogue. I decided I could no longer be a door mat. I went to a demonstration at a Macy’s store by employees. I decided to join them as I had once worked their and agreed with their objections. While I was in the picket line he showed up and eventually walked up to me. I told him in a calm tone of voice, “I am going to ask you nicely to leave me alone.” He tried to say something and I repeated my words. He walked off and I hoped he would respect my wishes.
Instead of respecting my wishes, his abuse became worse. The theatrics at synagogue continued, and he and his wife constantly insinuated that I needed to be made homeless. The only reason I could think of that they acted this way was my former landlord. A convention was held in Seattle over a weekend. He tried to approach me, and I reminded him I had asked him to leave me alone. At one of the sessions he sat across the room from me, which I found acceptable. He them moved to a seat next to the woman I was sitting with. I reported this to the convention staff, yet he continued to harass me. At a meeting of the King County Labor Council he signed that he was going to take my seat away from me, which he was successful at doing. He took away my career at the union.
I take my time spent worshipping and studying Torah at synagogue very seriously. Having someone like him constantly harassing me was devastating, especially after what happened with the union. I complained to the synagogue staff about his behavior. nothing was done and the behavior continued. He sometimes acted like a small boy pestering a playmate and he often had a grin on his face. The continued harassment began to take a toll and was causing depression. Instead of being a victim I decided to take action. I tried to serve him with a restraining order. The police said they were unable to find his house. I went to court anyway and the judge did not do anything.
I finally moved away from Seattle, for many reasons, that being one of them. I am still dismayed at all he was able to do to try and destroy me. I spoke up and complained about what he was doing to me, something I would not have done in the past. No one would help me, they continued to support him and treated me like I was a pain in the ass. Members of my synagogue signed that they were going to make me homeless. Retaliation for speaking out.
I have not in my past accused a man of harassment. It took a lot of courage to speak up and to try and do something about someone who was not only harassing me, but trying to destroy my character and good name and was successful at it. I spoke the truth and was treated as a nuisance.
I am glad the women of Hollywood have been more successful than I at calling out bad behavior and that action is being taken. Nothing makes one feel so small as to have the courage to speak up and then to be ignored. It is time that we stop ignoring those who speak up. I was not sexually abused, but harassment is harassment. I think in horror about those who are sexually abused and ignored. It is an ill our society needs to fix as it leaves permanent scars.