Is It Too Late To Say “Me Too?”

Like most sixteen year olds all I cared about when it came to my job was whether or not I got scheduled to work at the same time as my best friend, that I got Friday nights off to go to football games, and that I had fun whenever I was on the clock.

I started working at a restaurant here in town the summer before my junior year of high school. My best friend at the time and I set off to find a summer job that we could work at together. (We we’re inseparable at this point in our lives & man do I miss those days!) Luckily, we both got hired on the spot and the job was willing to work with our school schedules in the fall and our soccer schedules in the spring. To us, it appeared to be a win/win situation. Little did I know that this job would soon turn into memories that would last me a lifetime, and not in a pleasant “man, that was the best job ever” kind of way. The job started off great, however, a few months into the job a new general manager took over the store. He was younger than our prior general manager and appeared to be more hip and fun. It didn’t take this new Manager long to become flirtatious with me and a few other employees. At the age of sixteen, I’ll admit that at first I loved the attention.

It started slow with compliments such as “wow Ashlyn, you look great today!” but quickly detoured down a road of compliments that made me feel sexualized such as “those new work pants make your butt look really nice, you’ll make good tips in those!” I admit that I was young, naive, and loved attention so I brushed the compliments off because it appeared my Manager “favored” me. (Which worked in my favor when I wanted Friday nights off to attend football games). It was nothing more than creepy compliments at first, that is, until he asked me and my friend to babysit his daughter one night after a shift. My manager approached my friend and I and told us we could order anything off the menu we wanted, leave work early, and go chill at his house and play with his adorable little baby girl while he enjoyed a night out on the town with some friends. My friend and I ordered nearly half the menu that night and I remember thinking how “cool” it was that we just got $80 worth of food for free and the night off work to go play with a baby versus being stuck at work smelling like mozzarella sticks and bbq sauce.

On this particular night it was snowing really really really hard. My friend and I had put the baby to bed, ate all our food, watched two movies and were beyond ready to go home. We were kinda worried, as it had been snowing all night and at this point there was a good four inches of snow on the ground. Our Manager finally appeared at the door after an hour of not answering our texts and phone calls asking when he would be returning home so that we could make our own trek across town and go home.

Upon arrival my boss fumbled trying to get his own door unlocked and so I remember unlocking it for him so he could get inside. Once inside it was extremely obvious that our manager was extremely intoxicated. As we were getting our shoes and coats on, my boss went to the kitchen and poured three shots of tequila.

As a young teenager the offer of free alcohol seemed intriguing and exciting but thankfully my friend and I had good judgement and we declined the shots with my boss. At first we joked around and waited to be paid, all while declining drunken tequila shot offers. We decided we would just get our pay for babysitting from our boss when we worked with him next as at this point it was pretty late into the night. As we tried to leave my boss started undressing in his bedroom and rushed out in nothing but his boxers. I remember my friend and I laughing at the situation because “oh my gosh, our boss is totally drunk and standing in his boxers on his front porch in the snow.” Scraping ice and snow off the windshield of our car my friend and I ignored my boss as he drunkenly shouted to us from his porch. After a good ten minutes of trying to uncover our car our shoes were soaked, fingers numb, & noses were dripping. My boss kept telling us to stay the night and even called me while we were sitting in the car waiting for it to warm up. On the phone call my boss was drunkenly mumbling things about how he expected us to spend the night, how he cleaned his sheets specifically for us, and how we “needed to wait out the storm” with him.

Things didn’t seem scary until that point. I remember feeling sick in my stomach and my friend and I discussing the situation for days after it happened. On the ride home we decided against telling our parents in fear that we would have to quit our job or wouldn’t be allowed to babysit again. (I know, totally stupid looking back now but at 17 it all seemed logical.) We made excuses for our boss, chalking the situation up to nothing more than my boss being intoxicated. Our boss never mentioned it again either and it left my friend and I questioning for months whether or not he even remembered the situation.

Following this incident at his house my boss started to text me in the middle of the night and message me on Facebook. I never responded but found out that a few other girls at work were experiencing similar situations. There were several instances where my boss would smack my butt walking past claiming it to be “accidental” or accompany it by saying things such as “good game” in an attempt to “make it more work appropriate.” My boss would constantly tell me and some other employees about how much we resembled his wife (blonde hair, blue eyes, and young apparently was all it took for our boss to harass someone). My last straw at the job was when my boss put his hands around my neck from behind in a choking motion without applying pressure (a sexual gesture) and whispered in my ear about how much I looked like his ex & how “hot” we were.

Around this time it was my senior year in high school and I was starting to care less about getting Friday nights off work and more about me being comfortable at my place of employment. I had gotten a second job at a local sushi bar with another friend of mine and it was the start of a way out. I put my two weeks in at the restaurant with the creepy boss and sat down in the office with the assistant manager (another young female) thinking she could relate or point me in the right direction as far as telling someone about the inappropriate behavior. She shut the conversation down and made a joke out of it saying that I was “young and pretty” and that that’s all it was.

The very next day I was serving at the sushi bar and my boss from the sport bar came in. It was mid-afternoon and I was working alone. He ordered sake bottle after sake bottle, beer after beer, until finally I made a judgement call that his alcohol was being cut off. I gave him a glass of water and the sushi chef pushed for my drunken manager to call a taxi. My drunken boss sat there in the empty sushi bar and cried telling me about how his ex-wife left him, how he feels like a sh*t dad, and how he felt as though his life was falling apart.

I told him that things would get better and encouraged him to keep working at being in his daughter’s life because I was a product of a broken home and wanted nothing more than to have my dad in my life. It was at that moment that my boss picked me up by my butt cheeks and tried to kiss my neck. I was so taken aback I remember going completely stiff and pushing my hands on his chest to put me down. When he sat me down I ran to the back and told the chef who was preparing food during our slow time what just had happened. The chef told my boss to leave and he did; the whole way out mumbling his drunken, embarrassed apologies.

I immediately called my two best friends and they rushed into the sushi bar and the three of us sat in a booth sharing ice cream while discussing my options. I was ready to quit and say “F*** IT” to my last two weeks at the sport’s bar encouraging my coworker/best friend to leave as well. Again, I decided against telling my parents about the situation out of fear that I would be in trouble for not leaving or telling them sooner. I also didn’t want everyone to know about the situation because it was extremely embarrassing to me that I allowed it to get to this point when I knew better.

I called corporate three separate times over the next few days and each time they asked for proof of the situations I was describing. I felt as though they weren’t willing to help me and so I cut my two week notice short. I spent my last day at the sport’s bar letting everyone know exactly what had been going on and found that several other girls were experiencing worse situations but were unwilling to leave because of the special treatment they received in exchange for keeping quiet. The nights off when wanted, better serving sections, and free food was no longer worth it to me and I tried to encourage the other girls to come forward was well because there is always power in numbers. Once again, I was silenced.

But today, I am silenced no longer. Today I hope that everyone who reads this understands that I know how stupid it was for me to stay silent for so long. My predator of a Manager recently tried adding me on Facebook and it sparked all of these memories and feelings to resurface as I scrolled through his page seeing young women on there that I knew or young women that resembled a past me. I decided it was time to come clean about my experience in attempts to prevent future incidents like this happening to young girls (specifically my younger sister) in the future.

Young women, it’s okay to feel uncomfortable. It is okay to be embarrassed. It is okay to feel conflicted. It is NOT okay to be silent. It is NOT okay to let the behavior continue. It is NEVER too late to say “me too.” If you find yourself in a similar situation in the future please tell your parents, a trusted adult, a friend, or anyone who will help you find the right actions to take. Unfortunately for me, this predator is out there managing a hooters restaurant probably continuing his predator ways because myself and so many other young women chose to stay silenced. If someone doesn’t believe you or help you get to the bottom of the situation then continue to share your story, stand strong, and be loud until someone does.

I am always willing to help you and be your voice if you find yourself in a similar situation. I will believe you, I will help you, and I will fight with you. Please do not make the same mistakes as myself and always document anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Much love,

Ashlyn Sullivan

Thank you for reading. 💕

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