Tuesday, March 09, 2004

How I got accused of sexual harassment

Unlike most of my stories I won't name the participants by their full names, simply because some of them are still in court under criminal prosecution, they are gonna get what is coming to them and I don't care to add fuel into the fire. The people who were there will of course know who I am talking about, but then they know about the events already.

Way back in 1990 when I was a senior in B****line High School I took German 1 just for the hell of it. The teacher, who was also a foreign student counselor, was Mr. U*ich, a man of about 50. He made all the kinds of sexual jokes in the classroom, which did not bother me at all and did not strike me as odd at the time.What did strike me as odd is his habit of fondling boys' thighs and buttocks, especially when the boys obviously did not like it.

I used to sit next to a guy named Andre, who was a nice person to talk with, and for some reason Mr. U*ich was always trying to joke about what Andre and I were supposedly doing in bed (which we weren't). I did not mind in general although it did get boring when repeated 10 times during the same lesson.

At some point Mr. U*ich got himself a trainee teacher who was fairly intelligent and apparently spoke German well but lacked any skills needed for teaching, any sense of humor, and most social skills in general. He gave the better students, Andre and myself included, to her, and kept the rest himself.

One day around the end of the school year we were given evaluation forms that asked our honest opinion of our teachers. I wrote that the trainee teacher is a young woman and still has time to change her career, because she sure as hell is not gonna be any good in this one. During the same day Andre and I ran into Mr. U*ich and he started joking about our sexual life again, and asked me "Are you going to the prom with Andre?" (In case somebody does not know, a prom is a really big party in the end of senior and in some cases junior year.) "Why, no, Mr. U*ich, " I answered. "I am going to the prom with you, and then to an orgy." We (all three of us) laughed and went our own way.

In the afternoon I get a note to see my guidance counselor Ms. D*vis after school. That means trouble, and I am wondering what kind, or rather whether it is connected to my somewhat harsh teacher evaluation. Ms. D*vis was usually a fairly nice middle-aged woman who would be best described in Finnish as "kukkahattut├Ąti", a perfectly good guidance counselor except, of course, for the question that if one knows what career to choose why on earth would one become a high school guidance counselor? Anyway, she is there and Mr. U*ich with her, and they look deadly serious and tell me to sit down.

"Vera, " says she, "I don't want to hurt your feelings, but is it true that you wanted to have sex with Mr. U*ich and told him so today?"
"No!" I scream, horrified. And then I start explaining, somewhat hysterically, that it was a joke, that I understand it was a bad joke, that I am very sorry and that Mr. U*ich has nothing to fear since I wouldn't touch him even if he were the last man on Earth.

After five minutes of this heartfelt confession of my profound lack of sexual attraction towards Mr. U*ich they feel they'd had enough, tell me that they believe me and start berating me for making such jokes in school. At the same time they told me that I was unexcusably harsh towards the trainee teacher and will completely ruin her self-esteem and her belief in that she can teach. I insist that this is exactly the point because she cannot teach and someone should tell her about it, better sooner than later. They figure I won't change my mind and continue explaining me about how sexual jokes don't belong in school.

That really pisses me off. I mean, I can understand that other people might have a different sense of propriety and people don't necessarily like me and my jokes, but I was not going to listen to a lecture on the subject from a guy who makes even dirtier jokes 50 times during each lesson, and I told them so.

"I am sure you understood Mr. U*ich wrong," says Ms. D*vis. "Language barrier and all."
"I am sure I understood him right, and if you think I shouldn't believe my ears I can at least believe my eyes when he grabs boys' asses."
"Don't tell such things about Mr. U*ich. He is a family man."
"Family men can like teenage boys as well. You don't believe me, ask M.G." M.G. was the guy Mr. U*ich grabbed most often, and also the one most uncomfortable with it. Then I listed a few more names.

At this point Mr. U*ich declared that I was completely forgiven and retreated from the office. Ms. D*vis started preaching to me in a motherly tone that I look so open and friendly that people will want to take advantage of me, that I should look meaner, etc. She says that if I look meaner and wear more clothes the stupid buggers who are always sitting detention in the office won't comment about the size of my breasts. I answered that a price/performance value of such a change would be unacceptable since wearing more clothes in 40-degree heat is obviously more trouble than enduring occasional comments about the size and the alleged authenticity, or lack thereof, of my tits.

Then she read a lecture on the subject of "no woman is ever safe, not even in her own home, watch out" and "when you see a cute guy you'd probably want to tell your friends 'He is gorgeous, I wanna go out with him' but please don't make it so obvious to him". To that I answered that the verb I'd be using wouldn't exactly be "go out" but she told ne not to use such words in school. Finally she came to the lecture "there are horny (she used a more polite word that I can't remember) men everywhere looking for innocent women like yourself". "Where?" asked I, sounding way more enthusiastic than I intended to. (The question was meant to express disbelief rather than an enquiry about the present whereabouts of horny men.) At that she gave up on me and let me go.

Last year Mr. U*ich was arrested and charged with 10 counts of indecent assault and battery on a child over 14 for fondling the asses of boys who did not like it. Not the same boys that he fondled back then, different boys. He is still waiting for his trial. I felt like writing Ms. D*vis a letter saying "I told you so" but she had retired already.

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