#MeToo: Panelists share experiences of sexual harassment, how to address situations

Cary Ashby • May 17, 2018 at 4:00 AM

Tracy Goss McGinley was 16 years old working her first job as a waitress at York Steakhouse when she was groped.

She said she had to bend over to retrieve a filter and a male co-worker “decided it was OK to grab my butt.”

“I turned around and slapped him,” Goss McGinley said during the recent Lunch and Learn panel about sexual harassment. “He threatened right then to fire me.”

Lunch and Learn is a panel on a host of topics regularly hosted by Huron County Democratic Chairwoman Sue Lesch.

Goss McGinley, now a criminal justice instructor at BGSU Firelands, said she found out later the perpetrator had committed similar behavior previously at three other restaurants. She said one waitress told her the same man had been “sexually harassing her every time she was in the cooler.” Just after Goss McGinley had been groped, she threatened the man he would sue her and her parents backed her decision.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” Goss McGinley said, citing her parents raising her to stand up for herself.

During her time working in law enforcement — which she had done since she was 18, she said most cops treated her with respect, but “one officer left a dildo on my desk,” thinking it would be funny.

Joining Goss McGinley on the sexual harassment/#MeToo panel were Sue Ellen McComas, a BGSU Firelands communications instructor who also teaches women’s and gender studies, and attorney Florence Murray, from Murray & Murray Co. LPA, a Sandusky-based law firm. Murray’s areas of expertise are clients who have special needs and victims of sexual abuse.

McComas was the victim of sexual harassment in the early 1960s when she too was a waitress.

“When I did go in the cooler, someone grabbed my breast,” she said, recalling being “terrified” and so “rattled” afterward it was first hard to tell co-workers what happened to her. “When I told my boss, he said I should just get used to it.”

McComas recalled a time when as an adult, she was greeting a friend who knew her for many years and he grabbed her butt as they hugged. She said loudly asked him why he did that and they later had a long discussion.

“I refused to be silent in the moment,” McComas added, noting that sexual harassment victims can have post-traumatic stress disorder because they haven’t talked about their experiences. “We have to speak to it at the moment.

“It affects generation after generation,” said the instructor, whose mother didn’t reveal she had been the victim of a sexual assault until she was 78. “She was carrying this for a long, long time.”

Murray considers the present time “a very dangerous tipping point” in terms of sexual harassment. She said younger girls are part of a generation witnessing boys and men being blamed. Murray agreed with the other panelists that girls can be just as mean to other girls.

The attorney recommends documenting any sexual harassment or abuse at the work place.

“Make sure you put it in writing. … If you don’t, you’re not protected against being fired,” Murray said. “Keep a copy of what you submitted.”

Using Facebook Messenger to share allegations can be problematic for attorneys, but using an email to submit a complaint is an acceptable way of “writing it down,” the lawyer added. Goss McGinley has had students text her about complaints; Murray said it’s best to have them also send her an email since it’s possible to track down messages even when someone deletes them or attempts to wipe a computer clean.

Goss McGinley said it’s important to have open communication with your children and let them understand “they have agency over their own body.”

When handling or doing training on sexual harassment, McComas recommends role-playing. She said doing so empowers people, particularly children, and lets them have practice and the skills to say “no” and know how to handle various situations.

“We don’t have to let people in our own space if (we) don’t want them in (our) space,” McComas said. 

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