I Was Sexually Assaulted at Work (They Did Nothing to Help Me)

Yesterday was my last day at my previous job, where I worked in retail. I will not reveal the name of the company because I do not want to risk any legal action against me on their part. I began working with this company in early August. I had just moved to Georgia from New York and I had no work history here, so people were hesitant to hire me. 

I secured this job after walking in and speaking with the general manager who informed me that he was hiring. I got the job on the spot and began work the following week. After three days of learning the register, I was sexually assaulted by a manager. He groped my butt while helping a different cashier at another register. I immediately told my general manager and was informed that they would investigate.

HR investigated, I was interviewed, he was interviewed and nothing happened. I then began to notice that my hours were being reduced. I eventually only worked 8-15 hours a week instead of the 20+ I was accustomed to. I’d get disapproving looks from my general manager when he wasn’t happy with whatever I was doing at work, although I always worked my hardest. He’d often call me into his office often and make outlandish claims that I didn’t know how to do my job well, that I had too many questions, and I needed to learn more. I had only been there for a month when he tried to gaslight me in this way. He knew that countless people filled out five-star surveys regarding my service and I had the best customer service skills out of anyone there. He tried to justify his reducing my hours by saying I didn’t know how to do my job. While working there after the assault, I’d see the manager who had assaulted me saunter around the store, displaying this profound belief in his own engorged power. I heard a “locker-room story” of this same manager drawing a penis going into a model’s mouth on an ad in the store. I reported that and nothing was done to correct it. Oftentimes, my male co-workers would make flirtatious comments about my Latina background, calling me “senorita” and speaking in Spanish to me.

I spoke with HR after these incidents and was simply told to “just do my job”, when I asked the female HR representative for advice regarding this situation. I had panic attacks when I’d see the manager and yet no one offered me the counseling services that the company apparently offered. I was thoroughly left on my own to deal with everything that had been done to me. Each time I saw this manager at work, I would become re-traumatized. 

After three months, I found a full-time, better-paying, more meaningful job in my city and immediately took it. I worked my last day at the retail job yesterday and sent an e-mail to my general manager. That e-mail is enclosed below:

 

I hope all is well with you. This letter is to inform you that as of Monday, October 29th, 2018 I will no longer be a (company) employee. I have been recently offered an incredible full-time, stable, and meaningful position with a company and I must accept this great opportunity for me. 
I was initially intending on staying with (company) for weekend work and some evenings throughout the week, yet I had to sit myself down and ask myself if that was the best course of action for me considering every trauma that I have endured at (company).
While working with (company), I was sexually assaulted. I was not believed. I dealt with flirtatious, racially-charged comments about my Latina background. I had inconsistent hours. I faced reoccurring office meetings with you that caused me to become stressed and anxious while at work. 
I can’t work in a place where I am not safe; where my words are not believed or truly heard. I am grateful for the opportunity to begin work here in Georgia, as it had been difficult to secure a job here after moving from New York.  But after today, I can longer work for (company) in any capacity. My emotional and mental health is worth more. My physical safety is worth more than this job. 
Like I told you in your office a few weeks ago, my role at (company) is replaceable.  I am not replaceable and I must go where I am valued, strengthened, encouraged, and given steady work. 
Respectfully, 
Gabrielle 
Readers, you must not stand for injustices. Speak your truth. Speak THE truth about what has happened to you. You are not a victim. You are a survivor. Your words have power. In my situation, unfortunately I was not believed. There are people who did listen to women and believe them. Look for those people. Find them. Ask for help.
I contemplated pursuing legal action against the company, yet I could not find the funds necessary to hire a lawyer. If you can and if you have access to pro bono lawyers or lawyers that will work with your financial situation, look into legal action.
You matter. Your life matters. Your body matters. Your mind matters. Your heart matters. And you will thrive.
Love,
Gabrielle G.
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I Was Racially Profiled in NYC

Welp. How do I begin? Let’s all take a deep breath, get a cup of tea, and settle in for this story. I walked into Beacon’s Closet, a super white hipster store, on W. 13th Street around 11 AM with a huge garbage bag full of clothes, intending to sell them. I walked straight back to the selling section of the store and was told they’d call my name when my clothes were ready.

I walked around the store for a while and ended up waiting an hour before finding out that they had already looked through my clothes, wanted nothing, and didn’t have the decency to call my name and let me know that.

The real tea here is this: if you’re a woman of color with a purse, watch out. I had with me a really loose tote bag that was about half the size of a regular tote bag. It’s such a thin and loose material that if I stuffed anything in there, you could definitely see the outline.

While perusing the socks, and waiting for my clothes to be done, a sales associate behind the jewelry counter looked at me up and down and said, with no smile or kindness, “Can I have your bag?” I looked into her eyes and saw exactly what she was thinking, “This brown girl is going to steal.” She looked very nervous. If there’s a no “large” bag policy, she should be used to asking this question and shouldn’t look so scared. I asked her, “Oh, do I have to?” She said, “I’d prefer it.” So I gave it to her and walked around the store.

While walking around, I noticed that every other woman carried a tote bag, many of them leather (making it harder to see what’s inside). Their bags were much larger than mine. I also noticed that every woman shopping was white, except for me. Huh.

I went back to this sales associate and said, “Every other woman here has her bag, so can I have mine back?”

She replied, “Sure, I just like to take bigger bags.” I took a peek behind her and saw that the only other bags taken were large backpacks, which is pretty NYC standard.

I later left and called the store, speaking with the manager who was kind and understanding. She said that the bag policy is definitely not something they force and she’s going to speak with that associate about her approach to me.

All of the other women in that store were white and they kept their large bags. My medium-sized bag was taken away and I was the only person of color.

While in the store I felt so conflicted: do I stand up for myself and make a scene, possibly getting thrown out by security and playing into the “crazy Latina” trope? Or do I just go home and write a strongly-worded blog post? I chose the latter.

Women of color, watch out.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Hussain and His Mom (NYC Homeless)

I had an incredible encounter today. As I took an unusual route home, I came across a young undocumented woman with her baby, a boy named Hussain. I initially walked by but the Spirit of the Lord was thickly upon me! I bought a snack and some water for them and turned around to go back to them. Sitting on the ground with her, I learned that because she’s undocumented, she can’t find a place to stay. She can receive food stamps for her U.S. citizen baby, but nothing for herself. She told me where she was from and because of that and her son’s name, I assumed that she was Muslim.

Her precious baby, Hussain, was crying a lot, but the moment he saw me, he smiled so brightly. I called his name and he giggled, putting his finger to my lips. I kissed his finger. He reached out both of his arms toward me. He wanted me to hold him. Me! A stranger! I believe he saw the face of Christ through me.

Before giving this woman the names of some faith-based places she can go, I asked if we could pray together. I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder, but she wanted to hold hands. Well, we held hands and prayed to FATHER God through Jesus the Messiah and Son of God together! This was the first time I EVER prayed to Abba, through Jesus, with a Muslim person. Please pray for her physical needs and salvation!

 

 

Photo used is for representation only. They aren’t the people I met.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Moving Back to NYC! (#Adulting)

Well, it’s been a week since I’ve been back in NYC. I’ve done so many things:

 

  1. Saw Miss Saigon (I’m obsessed. See it NOW!)
  2. Indulged in happy hour at a hipster bar in the gentrified part of town (it’s still cute, doe)
  3. Got my first massage (I’ve been missing out!)
  4. Frolicked around Spanish Harlem (PR food is the best)
  5. Ate lots of arepas (#VenezuelaLibre)

After all of this fun, with my friends back to their normal schedules, I’m left sitting on my new bed, a couch in an apartment that belongs to a friend of a friend. I have no private space of my own in this place, but I like it. It’s spacious and in a “good” part of Washington Heights. “Good” means there are fewer PoCs and more hipster bars.

As I dash about the city from doctor appointments to job interviews to laundromats to Target (I need cheap furniture), I think about the past few months. My life was essentially on hold while living in Georgia. I was stripped from all familiarity, so to come back to NYC, my home, should be thrilling right??

Yes and no. I love NYC. My heart beats with the chug chug of the A train as I zip uptown to Wash Heights. I enjoy buying pastelitos and piraguas from the street vendors. (Support Latino street vendors!) I love being with my friends again.

But, something has changed.

I’m older now, not in number but in wisdom. I’m wary of this city. I know this city has the power to build but also to destroy to the point of desperation. I was there.

I pray that this city is kinder to me this time around. I ask God to expand my friend groups and to grow my faith community.

I’ll keep you guys updated.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Dear America: My Father is White (And That’s Okay)

This weekend has been jam packed with hospital visits and emergency surgeries, but I finally have a few moments to sit and breathe.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m “biracial.” My mother is Afro-Puerto Rican and my father is German-American. In other words, my mother is brown and my dad is white. Their union created me, ethnically ambiguous me, and I enjoy looking so distinct. Although my mixed heritage has been difficult to embrace at times, mostly because of others’ reactions to me, I love who God made me to be. I’m blessed to not be stuck in one culture and one mindset. Because I’m mixed, I can easily move between many cultures and believe that this will help me win souls for Christ. 

While being different is fabulous, there are aspects of the mixed life that are annoying and, at times, disturbing: some people think I’m my father’s wife. Yes, some people see me, a brown-skinned, curly-haired 23-year old woman out with a white 57-year old man and assume that any relationship between us must be of a sexual and romantic nature. Are you vomiting yet?

Growing up, I instinctually knew that society would perceive us in this way and when I became a teenager, I would make it a point to call my father “dad” or refer to “mom” whenever we were out in public. My fear of being mislabeled was profound. As a little girl, no one thought that anything inappropriate was happening between my father and I; we were just father and daughter. But, as I grew older, I knew that doubts would arise.

I could see it in people’s eyes when my dad and I shopped for groceries. I could feel their judgement on my back when I would hug my dad in public.

“Who is this little brown girl?”

“Is she some mail order bride?”

“That’s disgusting.” 

This fear subsided for some time because I lived in New York, and people were liberal. It was not inconceivable for a white man to have a brown child in New York. However, moving to Georgia has shown me a different side of America. Here, I go out with my father with the constant fear that someone will assume that our relationship is not familial. The other day, we went to Walmart (I hate them, but my dad’s a sucker for a bargain), and at the checkout line, we engaged in our typical witty banter, much to the amusement of the beautiful and sweet African-American cashier. When my dad left the checkout line to wash his hands (he got chicken blood on them -__-), the cashier asked me my age.

“I’m 23.”

“Oh, wow! I was going to say 17!” she laughed.

“Yeah, that’s just because I have my glasses on.” I replied, smiling.

. . .

“Are y’all close?”, she asked.

I was taken aback. In what way was she asking this question? I hope she knows he’s my dad.

“Yeah, we are…he’s a good dad.” I answered. Good job, Gabby. Clarify the relationship.

“Really? Aw, thats great. It’s hard to find good dads these days.” she said, with a little sadness in her tone.

Amen, sister.

When my dad came back, the cashier remarked to him that I said he was a good father and he in turn commended me as a daughter.

We left the store and I couldn’t stop thinking about the woman who saw my father and I together and immediately knew what our relationship was. That is rare.

 

This feeling didn’t last long. The next day, my father was rushed to the ER with what he thought were heart attack symptoms (turns out it was a panic attack), and the EMT who arrived at our house referred to me as my father’s wife. My dad immediately corrected him and he apologized.

Blunders like that happen often, but I asked myself why does this happen so often to us? It’s clear that my dad is almost 60 and I’ve been mistaken for a teenager countless times. Does anyone seriously think we’re married? If so, why?

I believe there’s only one reason that some people don’t understand our relationship: my skin color. If I were completely white, no one would doubt that this almost 60-year old white man and white 23-year old girl were father and daughter. In fact, if the genders were switched, I highly doubt that anyone would assume an older white woman would be in a relationship with a young brown man. They would see him as her son, wouldn’t they? No one would question it. But, because I have brown skin and I’m a woman, suddenly the relationship is not clear. This should not be so.

We live in an era where people freely marry people of other cultures and have babies with them. These babies grow into young adults and then adults who must deal with society’s perception of them and their parents for their entire lives. It is so damaging to a mixed person to be perceived as so incredibly “other” that we must not be related. We must be some young bride. Some sugar baby. Isn’t that the picture they have in their heads?

I wish this would stop. A girl shouldn’t fear going in public with her father simply because she’s of a certain age and different skin tone than he is. So, yes my dad is white. He’s my dad and will always be my papa bear. I’ll hug him in public and let them think what they will. He’s my dad and that’s all that matters.