When a Pervert Dies

Posted: June 23, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I had been looking for him for nearly 30 years, because I didn’t have the courage to stand up to him when I was only 19. He was a criminal attorney in Chicago who chomped on fat expensive cigars and drove a white caddy. Such a stereotype.

He was also flamboyantly loud and obnoxious. And he was cocky enough to think I would be elated that he wanted to set me up in an apartment, purchase an entire wardrobe for me, pay for my daughter’s education, charge the men $100 (in 1970 that was a lot of money), keep 90% for himself, because after all, if he was paying the bills, $10 per man wasn’t a bad deal for me), and to make his offer even more appealing, he also told me that part of my job was to service him in his office at the law firm each morning.

I had been hired to be his secretary and to perform secretarial duties. I would have had to make coffee, too, but I didn’t know how, and neither did he. So I laughed when he told me about my new duties. Had to be a joke, right? No boss would ever ask his secretary to perform sexual acts. When I refused, he informed me that his former secretary did exactly what he asked her to do, and that it wasn’t an option – it was part of my job.

I couldn’t believe his former secretary would have agreed to do such a thing. I knew her. I lived near her. There must be a reason why she was his FORMER secretary. When I realized he wasn’t kidding, that he really expected me to perform a little ritual “under his desk,” as he told me, I fell apart.

I was a single parent raising a child alone and I was making good money at his law firm. Law firm – what a joke. He had one partner and only one client, the biggest drug dealer in one of Chicago’s suburbs. I think he also had some shady business activities going on that I was never part of.

I remember the day I received my W-2 form six months after I walked out on him. He had written down the wrong social security number. Knowing he would never answer his own phone, I called his office. His former secretary answered the phone. I was surprised to hear her voice. She was expecting my call. “Mr. M said that if you want your W-2 form, you’ll have to come in to get it.”

So I reported him to the IRS. He sent another W-2 form, but he still wrote down the wrong social security number. I called the IRS again who told me to just change it. And I never saw him again.

For years it bothered me that I had lost that job due to sexual harassment. Nobody knew the term, “sexual harassment” back then. Nobody would have cared. I was a 19 year old girl who had to decide between having that job or going without. I chose poverty.

So years later, when I’d finally found my voice, I mustered up the courage to visit his office in downtown Chicago. I took along a friend for support. His name appeared nowhere on the lobby wall. I looked up his firm in the phone directory and even in law directories, but I could find him nowhere.

Periodically throughout the years, my memories of him would surface and I’d start the hunt all over again. Though I found his former business partner and even sent the partner an email (he never responded), I could find him nowhere.

And then yesterday I found his name among many names – in an old obituary. The obituary provided the reason I couldn’t find him earlier – he had quit his law practice to purchase an airline, which he later sold. He then joined the entertainment industry.

I saw his photo too, still clutching that fat cigar, and my heart raced with the memory of a man who used his power to frighten a young woman who merely wanted a job that paid well enough to support herself and her daughter. After seeing that face I wonder if I truly would have been able to stand up to him. My body tightened in response to just seeing him, and I relived that same fear all over again.

I don’t grieve for his passing – I grieve because I never stood up for myself.

How is it that nearly forty years later, he still manages to intimidate me, even from the grave?

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Comments
  1. Coral says:

    Though not an attorney, our lives (once again) are parallel in this. I had courage to stand up, but it was used against me and they “won.” I have yet to write the story.

    I applaud you for writing it and for choosing freedom, even if it doesn’t always feel courageous.

  2. theresawiza says:

    Reblogged this on Theresa Wiza's Blog and commented:

    Reblogging for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

  3. Mella says:

    Oh man! What a story. So respectful were your actions, Theresa!

    It’s kinda sad really. That dirty man probably never knew love. Such a depressing, power-driven life of loneliness.

    Ironically, now you are far richer than he ever was.

  4. Linda Johnson says:

    Did you ever confront the “former secretary”? That is an amazing story, and you did indeed show courage and unshakeable moral values — that’s not what I call poverty!

  5. Lyn says:

    Jackie’s right. You did stand up to him. You left. Some would not have, unfortunately.

  6. Jackie Murray says:

    Terri,

    Such a pig! Truely, I (need) to believe that if he really pushed, you would have stood up to him. In fact, you did. By quitting your job instead of doing as he ordered, you stood up to him. I’m proud of you, proud to know you, proud that you, were in fact one of my early roll models. We ALL loved having you as our babysitter (LOL)! It makes me very sad that all of these terrible things happened to you. We never knew of this. Makes my heart heavy that your still on such a journey. One day, your journey and trials and tribulations will take you to wonderful places. These are my dreams and wishes for you. They are from my heart to yours

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