Starting my sophomore year, I spent every summer in college working at an architectural firm as an intern. It was a small firm. When I began, there were four or five employees and I frequently found myself alone with one other coworker due to meetings. The firm grew over the years I worked there to about ten employees, but it was still small. There was one coworker, a middle-aged divorcee who took an immediate interest in getting to know me. Almost immediately I had an uneasy feeling about him. Whenever I found myself alone with him, he would drop what he was doing and try to engage me in conversation. I had never had any uneasy feelings about the man who raped me, so in the wake of that, uneasy feelings were a huge red flag to me.
The summer before I graduated from college marked the third summer I interned at this architectural firm. It happened that work was slow so I was given a time filler task: reorganizing their library. The firm was in an office building with multiple tenants. Across the hall from the office was a storage room filled with architectural samples and a library of architectural catalogs. It was a small dark room void of any windows. Two of the four wall were exterior solid concrete walls and the only joint wall with another office space was shared with a vacant office. I was given the task of sorting through the library and organizing it on shelves instead of its current state of haphazard piles strewn about the Storage Room. I worked for days in this small Storage Room. Since it felt dark and stagnant, I worked with the door open to get in more “fresh” air.
One day when I was working in the Storage Room the man who made me uneasy walked in. He immediately closed the door behind him. I panicked. My heart started racing. He was standing between me and the door. Would anyone even hear me scream? I felt sick to my stomach. In retrospect, I think I was having a panic attack, but it shook me to my core. I was terrified!
He had come to have a confrontational discussion with me. He was a Christian and he took issues with me. He then proceeded to berate me as a bad example of a Christian because I didn’t listen exclusively to Christian music. He told me he didn’t like how I dressed and mentioned on one instance he saw down my shirt when I bent over. He also told me he thought another middle-aged male architect in the office was attracted to me, a married man. He said that was not ok. Then he turned and walked out.
I was completely caught off-guard and thoroughly terrified by his confrontation. I said nothing in response to him. My thoughts had been completely consumed with my own safety and getting him out of the Storage Room. I did not feel comfortable being alone with him. After this encounter, I worked with the door shut and locked. I was not about to risk being cornered again in the Storage Room by anyone.
In regards to his accusations, I didn’t exclusively listen to Christian music. While Christian music is great, I don’t think Christians are required to exclusively listen to Christian music. As far as his second accusation of not liking how I dressed, I dressed conservatively. It was not at all intentional on my part that this incident of him seeing down my shirt occurred. Aside from wearing turtlenecks daily, I suppose it is possible on occasion to see down someone’s shirt. I was embarrassed and very uncomfortable that he had seen down my shirt and that he was looking in the first place.
He seemed particularly angry about his last accusation. I had always been uncomfortable with his extra attention and wondered if he was in fact attracted to me, but I never encouraged anything. The accusation though that somehow, I was to blame for someone else being attracted to me (per his opinion), well, it’s ludicrous. I never flirted with anyone in the office. I am kind and friendly to other people. I had worked directly with this other man, but I never encouraged any feelings in any way. Aside from me occasionally asking about his kids, our interactions were purely professional. If he was in fact attracted to me, as this man claimed, then it was entirely of his own accord and had nothing to do with me and my interactions with him. Personally, I had never gotten this impression from him.
During my last semester of college, the owner of the architecture firm told me I needed to come by with my portfolio. I knew he was going to offer me a job, but the Storage Room encounter was a deal breaker for me. I could not work with someone who would corner me like that. I shared my concerns with my Girl’s Bible Study. One of the other girls told me if it was God’s plan for me to work there, God would take care of it. I asked them to be praying about it. When I showed up to the office for my interview, I discovered that man had quit. I was relieved. I accepted the position that was offered to me. I was so grateful God had answered my prayers yet again and resolved the situation for me.