As part of our “Life Changing Stories” initiative, we are sharing inspirational stories. Stories from people who #AskFirst , people who took action, who intervened and opened the door for survivors, stories of courage from survivors, and stories of those who made a difference and are creating a culture of consent and respect. We believe that together, these stories – when shared – go to great lengths to create a culture of consent and respect.
Please know that this story could be a trigger for some. We applaud Kendra and all survivors for being #SurvivorStrong.
This is Kendra’s story:
Naiveté, youth, inexperienced, trusting: That was me then…that was me before.
They asked me to lunch, a business lunch. “Finally” I rejoiced! Someone of influence recognizes my value! This is my chance! I remember looking around in the lobby at the other business people getting ready to have their power lunches. I felt like I was finally arriving. In retrospect I was arriving but the destination was not what I was expecting.
A party of three turned into a party of two when one colleague did not show up for lunch. I did not question it, after all I trusted. My self-doubt was bolstered by the invite, by sitting across from someone of such importance.
The convo was the usual small talk at first then it got weird, uncomfortable, and personal. He started to talk about his mistresses and how he’d pay for them to live in apartments. Even at that moment, I was trusting. It did not occur to me that he was implying that this could be me. I could be so lucky as to become his mistress. It was just dawning in my consciousness that people could be opportunistic.
Months later we are at a meeting in Vegas. A colleague and myself were set to talk about our project with “Mr. Opportunistic” at a nice restaurant except that, once again, the colleague did not show up. It was just Mr. Opportunistic and I. He bought me rose, we took a picture at the table. He suggested we go to a strip club but it did not feel like a “suggestion.” I went. I knew this was not ok, I felt like I should escape somehow but maybe this was normal. Maybe this is how business worked. Where is my voice? Why can’t I express my boundaries? Finally we go back to the hotel. He tells me to meet him in his room. I find my voice and say no. Looking back that was the beginning, a baby step but the beginning, of owning my boundaries.
Later, back at work, I am accused of acting inappropriately in Vegas. Mr. Opportunistic tells me he is giving me three weeks to find a new job but I am not to tell Human Resources. I am devastated, I feel guilty, I feel like I did something wrong. I blamed myself for a very long time.
“What did I do? Why did I deserve this? I must have made a strategic error. I must have made a mistake.”
Retreat. Alone. Silence. Who can I tell? What is there to tell? No one would believe me. I don’t want to be “that girl.” I don’t go out with friends. I certainly don’t date. I don’t do society.
I focus on me. I do yoga, I work out. I do a lot of self-help reading. I spend time getting to know me. I learn about me. I discover.
I discover three pillars of resilience.
1. Faith in the Higher Power and that there is a plan for me.
2. Confidence in me. I did nothing wrong. I am who I am and I will persevere.
3. Compassion, the hardest pillar. Not so much forgiving him but forgiving myself.
I made a decision. I would not let Mr. Opportunistic or people like him destroy me. Strong, compassionate, confident, striving. That is me now.
(Last name printed with permission. To find out more about Kendra go to KendraDahlstrom.com)
**The image at the top of this article is not of the survivor who shared this story.
-Mike Domitrz, founder of The DATE SAFE Project
If you have any questions about our programs at The DATE SAFE Project or speaking engagements please contact Rita at 800-329-9390 or you can email her at Rita@datesafeproject.org