Brittney Olsen: Wait, you too?

  1. My friend, who just hired me, has a crush on me. My friend tried to kiss me. I’m going through a massive break up and subsequent depression. My friend tried to kiss me again. My friend won’t stop trying. I’m drinking. I don’t remember the first time we kissed. I know I kind of “came to” in the back of an uber and realized it was happening. It ended. But then what…you’re stuck. You did it once. Do it again. Say no again. But then say yes. But no…definitely no. It’s done.

You’re under water and you are going to massive extremes to feel anything at all that isn’t the sinking sadness. Physical attraction is not a factor. Mental attraction is not a factor. It’s proximity. It’s finding comfort in company even though you’re mind is outside looking in. This is not my body. These are not my actions. Trapped in secrets, you begin to look for anything that will make sense of what you are doing. We didn’t have sex, must not be that bad. It didn’t happen a lot, totally fine. I won’t tell anyone, even better. Things are different now, relax.

Will people judge me? Will he lie about me to protect himself? Will people believe me? Will people ask what he did with his hands? Will people ask what I did? Will people say I have no right to share? Did I ask for it?

When things started between us I was going through a terrible breakup after ten years of a very solid relationship. I was living in a new place and was grateful to have a friend who was so well liked and could introduce me to people in the industry. When we were physical, I honestly thought it was just a mistake between two people that were going through a shit time. It never made me feel good, I woke up crying, and I’m embarrassed to admit that due to the amount I was drinking I don’t remember a lot of it. I believed him when he told me he was in a broken marriage, that they were together for the sake of their children, and they were living separate lives. I don’t believe that justifies anything but I guess it was enough to open me up to those encounters and kept me in a place where I was embarrassed enough to not tell anyone. I didn’t know many people in town at this time, so I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I believed what he was saying was truth, and even felt sorry for him. Bad marriage, young kids, the stress of supporting a family. I was eager to move on and enjoy a normal friendship with him. For a long time things were just that.

Over the summer (July and August 2016) I found myself increasingly uncomfortable around him. He would bring up the past and say things that made me feel like he was trying to get physical again. This would happen while my boyfriend was working or when he was just out of earshot. My boyfriend and I have been dating for some time now, and I had always shared and confided in the friend about that relationship. He sung my boyfriend’s praises while trying to hit on me. After this happened a few times I let him know he had been speaking to me in an inappropriate way and he apologized. He said he was going to therapy, working on his marriage, and embracing sobriety. Again, I believed him. I am disappointed in myself for not seeing a pattern. I am disappointed I believed the half truths and lies. I am mostly embarrassed that I spoke so highly of him to our peers, coworkers, and strangers in the industry. So although I don’t feel assaulted, I feel manipulated, embarrassed, and insulted. Plus all the hurt in knowing someone you were so close to was hurting women throughout the community he claimed to love.

Flash forward to a phone call from someone leaving his company. Up until that point I had no idea he had been physical with her or any other girls. I was saddened that someone had to lose a job for his mistakes. I was angry that he hired these women as coworkers and employees. I was disappointed I had to give up a job I was so excited to start. Then, when his wife called, I learned about the other women. The women he told the same lie to about his marriage. That was one of the worst moments of my life. I was part of a group of women that had been manipulated and lied to. That he claimed to mentor us when he was just trying to use our bodies.

This wasn’t the end. As people started communicating I heard about the assault. I heard about the late night phone calls to people we worked with that never wanted to say anything because it embarrassed them. I heard about the aggressive physical encounters women had. I heard women were backed into corners. Were held down. Were scared. The number shocked me. It seemed like every day there was a new story not just in LA but also around the country. Men and women never mentioned it to me before because I was so close to him. This made me feel sick. His posts on the Internet made me feel worse. That he could be so insensitive shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. It is disgusting that women who were assaulted had to see our community express their support for him as they were privately trying to come to terms with what has happened.

I received a text saying “I might feel as though I was taken advantage of or even assaulted” and he offered to pay for any therapy I might need. I urged him to consider women may not want therapy sponsored by their abuser. That it could be an insulting proposition. The idea you can hurt them and then “fix” them is a very privileged way to approach this and may cause more pain.

I want to be very clear: a man in a position of power manipulated, lied to, hired, fired and “mentored” women in our community for sex. I can’t help but think of him considering me an easy target when he knew I was going through so much pain. That I was willingly physical with someone who has done so much harm to women is a lot to take in. I want to share a side of this story that is different from the outright assault. A side from someone who cared deeply for him as a friend and now feels like she never knew him at all. What I thought was a dumb mistake between two hurt people was actually the pattern of a predator. To learn I am not alone is both comforting and devastating. We speak on hospitality often, but how are we taking care of each other? Women worked shifts right next to him while dealing with this. Women have had to hear people talk about how brave this man is for “owning” his addictions and posting about them. Women had to serve this man drinks days, months, and years after their assault. We need to be better. We need to provide an environment where victims can safely come forward and this kind of behavior doesn’t get lumped into “generic substance abuse.” We are people. We are hurt.

Brittney Olsen