I was asked to sign a Confidentiality Agreement after entering into a settlement with the CEO (my boss) of a publicly held company. On the advice of my lawyers I filed an EEOC complaint in conjunction with a lawsuit against the company for sexual harassment & mental abuse.
My case took less than two months from filing to signed agreements. It moved rapidly back and forth between attorneys and I was often told we had to respond within 24 hours. The first time I felt pressure was when I had to be convinced it was ok that the Settlement Agreement said neither the company or my boss were admitting fault. Upon sending the narrative of my claims to their lawyers, my boss responded saying he believed our relations to be consensual. I was devastated, and thought the case would go to court and my lawyers would defend all the language submitted in the narrative. However, my lawyers were delighted, saying this was an admission rather than a denial, which meant we would have a much easier time in negotiations. To me, this was NOT an admission, it is NOT the truth. While I remember them talking about negotiated settlements, I did not realize that meant not getting justice. I wanted it to be negotiated that he would no longer have a position of power over women. But the part about me getting justice & preventing future victims was never discussed again. As they fought over money, I felt like I was watching everything from outside my own body; powerful people taking away my voice. They said: it doesn’t matter what he believes to be true, you know what is true and the only way to make men like him accountable, since they will never admit to wrongdoing, is to hit them where it hurts……financially. I was tired and after a few days I agreed to let them “do what they did best….make me whole.” You hear that phrase a lot when it comes to lawyers. But no one really asks you what would make you whole, like maybe justice & taking away his ability to do this to someone else.
When I read the draft of the Settlement Agreement and got to the Confidentiality Clause, I told my lawyers I would not sign, I would rather take my chances with mediation, so he would be exposed publicly. I could tell they were not happy but just like with the “consensual” language, they let me cool off for a day, and we met to discuss what mediation would look like. They told me there was a possibility I would have to see him, and sit in the same room across a table from him, and feared I was not strong enough for that, even though they kept telling me how brave I was. They also warned that the State laws regarding damages the company would have to pay would be far less (to me, and THEM); and even worse, my boss would not be responsible in any way. To expose him, and hold him personally liable we would have to file a civil lawsuit including rape and assault, which could get very nasty. They would have to determine how “winnable” a civil case would be, analyze cost etc… I was scared they would not represent me. While they said they would, they made it sound like it would be a difficult case to prove and win.
They did not understand why I was upset and said: “why would you ever WANT to talk about this?” I went to my therapist hoping someone would help be explain how this felt dirty and wrong, but she agreed with the lawyers saying “he needs to pay, and financially is the only way it can be done.”
I asked that we go to mediation, it was much more important to me that he be held to account for what he did. His lawyers came back with a larger settlement amount, stating that he did not want this to go to mediation. Although I wanted to keep fighting, my lawyers made me feel like I would be crazy not to end this. They said phrases like: you can just forget this, move on, begin a new life, start a new career, take a vacation. To me, this sounded ludicrous to say to someone who has been raped & terrorized, but maybe I was being irrational. It seemed like they were done fighting and the payout for them was more than they could ever get in mediation. I felt obligated to them and that if I pressed on I would possibly lose support or look vengeful. I signed.
I feel dirty for taking money to keep his crime secret. I feel guilt that someone else will be his victim. I feel shame that I lost my career at 44; I have been blackballed in my industry. I can’t explain why I left at the top of my game. I don’t feel comfortable in close work situations with male executives. I can’t focus. All of this makes employment at that level difficult if not impossible. I keep track of him, so I know if I am in possible danger. I agreed to hide a part of me that needs to be healed. I am enraged that my life was stolen and he is FREE. I live small because I feel I am not worth justice. I can’t speak my truth as so many others have been empowered to do during a world wide #metoo movement. People often say I am confusing, secretive or weird. But I am a version of me that is unrecognizable, I am bought, like an acquisition. I am not me.