Society and Culture
Sexual Harassment: Yes or No
by Trish Hubschman
September 1988, I began training at the Helen Keller Center for the Blind, to learn how to use a computer, skills for daily living, and mobility instruction. The previous June, I had graduated college. I looked at this training period as halfway time until they found me a job. I was looking forward to learning how to use a computer. I wasn’t excited about doing travel training.
I had a best friend at the center, a blind man named Ben. We spent a lot of time together. We went out to lunch, played Scrabble at breaktime, even walked to the bus stop together after the class day ended. There were a lot of clients at the center; some I knew and were old friends. I felt at-home and popular there.
There was this older man named Larry. I think he was Hispanic. He was short and on the heavy side. He was separated from his wife, but still living in the same house as her. I don’t know how his vision was. He did use a long white cane, but he also seemed to see well enough to know where I was. If Ben and I were playing Scrabble in the Skills room, Larry would be lurking in the doorway. When I came out of the Girls bathroom, Larry would be standing a few feet away. At first, I thought this was a coincidence, but it was happening too often.
If we were on the elevator at the same time, Larry stood too close to me. Yeah, there were other people on the elevator, but it just seemed Larry intentionally planted himself against me. He was being too friendly and it made me uncomfortable. I was always polite, but did my best to get away from him. But the more I did that, the more aggressive he got.
“You look beautiful today,” he’d say. It was a compliment, yes, and I thanked him, but it didn’t stop there. He asked me out. I giggled, and then said no. He backed me against the wall and asked me to give him a kiss, even puckered his lips. This was embarrassing. I asked him to please, leave me alone, but he didn’t.
I tried to hide from him, but the center wasn’t that big and I had my friends I wanted to hang out with. I found myself relieved when he went out on mobility or I did, but when I came back, he found me again. He wouldn’t leave me alone.
One day, at lunchtime and most of us were in the break room, Larry came in with his travel trainer. He made a bee-line to me and started touching me. I asked him to stop, but he didn’t. I took his folded white cane out of his hand and whacked him over the head with it. I couldn’t’ believe what I’d done. Terrified that I’d get in trouble, I headed out of the break room and hid in the Girls Locker room.
The next day, I was called into a counselor’s office. This was it! I was sure I was going to be booted from HK. I apologized for hitting Larry over the head with his cane. She told me I shouldn’t’ have done that, but Larry was wrong for sexually harassing me. My mouth dropped open. I never thought of it that way. I felt guilty and bad for Larry. He was told to stay away from me and keep his mouth shut. When I walked back into the break room, Larry was sitting in a chair in the corner. He looked sour and didn’t say a word to anyone. I was afraid everyone would be mad at me because Larry was in trouble. As it turned out, I don’t think anyone even noticed.
I stayed there for a year, then got my first job working part-time for a lawyer. I kept in touch with my friend, Ben, but we never spoke about the incident with Larry.
About the Author
Trish Hubschman has published three books with America Star Books: a short story collection of time travel and romance stories called Through Time and the first two books in the Tracy Gayle/Danny Tide series: The Fire and Unlucky Break. Trish attended college at Long Island University’s Southampton campus, earning a BA degree in English with an emphasis in writing. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two dogs. Her website is https://www.dldbooks.com/hubschman/.