Today in I-can-make-anything-about-real-estate: Trash Mountain, Sexual Harassment, and Tenant Rights.
College was difficult. I came from a high school far more academically rigorous, but barely made it through my last two years at William and Mary. Part of this was my own hubris and ego, refusing to bend to the professors who said they were the best teachers I’d ever have so I should toe the line. I’ll also be the first to admit I partied and didn’t always go to class. But the real culprit, the thing that sent my academic career spiraling and caused my anxiety to spike, was the sexual harassment I faced both at work and in class. And the fact that when I reported it I was treated as though I were overreacting by the higher-ups (although my colleagues and classmates corroborated my side), with the “punishments” handed down each time negatively affecting me more than the offender.
At the same time I was living in a disgusting old house, affectionately named Trash Mountain, which was a crash course in dealing with a bad living situation. At the time I didn’t realize I had recourse with my landlord for the winter months we spent without heat, that he wasn’t allowed to show up unannounced to “check on us,” or that I could have tasked him with filling the vacant downstairs apartment instead taking responsibility for both. I could have asked him to hire an exterminator, rather than setting traps myself, and insisted that the leaks in the windows and doors be fixed.
I hold nothing against this landlord; he was a sweet man overall. But this is exactly what I said about my old boss when he didn’t do anything to stop the vicious and disgusting harassment by my manager at work, and about my old professor when he didn’t insist that the inappropriate lab TA be fired. It’s easier to take the burden on myself than risk the backlash that would come from inadvertently harming a man who had merely facilitated bad behavior, not participated in it.
And now, nearly a decade later, I’m experiencing a disturbing deja vu.
I don’t currently face sexual harassment at work and I strongly believe that Compass would fire any agent who engaged in such behavior. I feel safe at this company and know my team would have my back in any situation. I am so, so lucky and grateful for everything I have here. But outside of work? The Kavanaugh hearings and the surrounding coverage are horrific, and bringing me back to a place mentally that I don’t want to go. It reminds me of every time any of my experiences were ignored (sexual harassment is far from the worst thing I’ve experienced as a woman, and the same can be said of pretty much every woman I know), or belittled, or I was told I was exaggerating or a liar.
And simultaneously I am, again, in a toxic housing situation. Two years ago I finally filed a DHCR complaint against my landlord. It’s still being reviewed and I do not want to discuss any details, but the lengthy process has not be due to the DHCR but instead to the landlord’s repeated extensions and attempts to drag this out. I will move as soon as I can, but it’s currently out of the question. So I feel trapped. To tie the two together, this is the same landlord whose lawyer once commented on my appearance, claiming the two of them had discussed what a “pretty girl” lived in apartment 3A. Clearly this is an appropriate comment to make in a court of law.
Yet again, I find myself in a position where I’m being told not to blame people who may not have been fully malicious in their intent. The landlord is just trying to make money and my building was a bad investment! Kavanaugh didn’t know any better because at 17 we all made mistakes! These women may be lying or exaggerating and it probably wasn’t that bad!
I can’t get on board with that anymore.